While speaking at Georgetown University last week, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, addressed the need for more free speech—not less. This comes at a pivotal moment, as the First Amendment is under attack—51% of Americans would support it being rewritten—and social media companies are under pressure to reject free expression on their platforms. In a recent Democratic debate, for instance, presidential hopeful Kamala Harris called for Twitter to ban President Trump.
Zuckerberg argued that censoring politicians, individuals, or even news outlets is bad for democracy. He also reminded listeners that freedom of speech and expression are “necessary to build a more inclusive society.”
Facebook and other social media platforms have allowed individuals from all walks of life to share their stories, regardless of who agrees with their views. This discourse is essential for a democratic society. He noted:
People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society. People no longer have to rely on traditional gatekeepers in politics or media to make their voices heard, and that has important consequences. I understand the concerns about how tech platforms have centralized power, but I actually believe the much bigger story is how much these platforms have decentralized power by putting it directly into people’s hands.
As a private company, Facebook can draft limitations to what content circulates on the site. However, Zuckerberg understands the drawbacks of applying this too restrictively. He argues that Facebook will work to eliminate harmful content, like incitement to violence and illegitimate, hoax posts by spam accounts. However, he also states that Facebook will continue to “uphold as wide a definition of freedom of expression as possible.”
Facebook has built a platform that is dedicated to allowing all people—regardless of political affiliation, religion or gender—to speak freely. Hopefully, the company stays true to that course. Read the full speech here.