Acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, in a New York Times op-ed Thursday, laid into Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg over his company’s refusal to block political ads with incorrect or misleading information.
Sorkin, who in 2010 wrote “The Social Network,” a movie about Facebook’s origin story and Zuckerberg’s rise to fame, hit back at the CEO for criticizing the film’s depiction of him.
“You protested that the film was inaccurate and that Hollywood didn’t understand that some people build things just for the sake of building them,” Sorkin wrote.
“It was hard not to feel the irony while I was reading excerpts from your recent speech at Georgetown University, in which you defended — on free speech grounds — Facebook’s practice of posting demonstrably false ads from political candidates.”
Sorkin wrote that he admired Zuckerberg’s “deep belief in free speech,” but argued that having “crazy lies pumped into the water supply that corrupt the most important decisions we make together” can’t be what the Facebook CEO wants.
The screenwriter noted that one-third of the world uses Facebook and that 50 percent of Americans say that they get most of their news from the social media site.
“You and I,” Sorkin writes, “want speech protections to make sure no one gets imprisoned or killed for saying or writing something unpopular, not to ensure that lies have unfettered access to the American electorate.”
Facebook has been under fire from Democrats for not fact-checking political ads and not blocking those with misleading information.
The controversy arose after a Trump campaign ad accused Vice President Joe Biden of corruption without evidence. Facebook declined to take the ad down, claiming that the social media company is protecting political speech and that it should not be responsible for vetting political arguments.
Facebook has doubled down on its stance. Zuckerberg was also grilled during testimony before Congress last week, including in a memorable exchange with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Ocasio-Cortez asked the 35-year-old billionaire, “Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?”
“Congresswoman, in most cases, in a democracy, I believe people should be able to see for themselves what politicians they may or may not vote for are saying and judge their character for themselves,” Zuckerberg responded.
Sorkin ended his letter scathingly, writing, “if I’d known you felt that way, I’d have had the Winklevoss twins invent Facebook,” a reference to Zuckerberg’s rivals in the early days of the company.
Sorkin’s op-ed comes a day after Twitter CEO and founder Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter would stop accepting political ads.