By: Patrice Onwuka
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said he won’t police political speech on his platform in a speech of his own yesterday that is sure to anger many on the left who want content by President Trump and those on the right to be censored.
Zuckerberg’s big takeaway: free speech shouldn’t take a backseat to political outcomes. He’s right and let’s hope that message gets to policymakers who want to suppress free speech from political enemies.
Speaking at Georgetown University Zuckerberg laid out his explanation for how the platform treats different types of speech, why some posts get taken down immediately and why others stay put despite protest.
Here are 3 key points from Zuckerberg’s speech and why they matter:
- Free speech comes with tension. “In times of social turmoil, our impulse is often to pull back on free expression. We want the progress that comes from free expression, but not the tension.”
- Just because we don’t agree with or like someone else’s views, it doesn’t mean we should suppress them. Free speech is messy, but every person should have the right to speak. We learn from each other even and figure out how to get along. However, my voice cannot be more important than yours.
- Suppression of speech hurts minority voices.“Pulling back on free expression wasn’t the answer and, in fact, it often ended up hurting the minority views we seek to protect. From where we are now, it seems obvious that, of course, protests for civil rights or against wars should be allowed. Yet the desire to suppress this expression was felt deeply by much of society at the time.”
- Jailing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his political protest was the result of speech suppression. Many Americans didn’t agree with the civil rights movement at the time and used their powers to suppress those efforts. Today, society doesn’t fathom civil rights being wrong. Culture changes but values like free speech should not and must be upheld for all. Ideas that are fringe or minority today, may become accepted norms tomorrow.
- We shouldn’t suppress speech for political outcomes.
“More people across the spectrum believe that achieving the political outcomes they think matter is more important than every person having a voice. I think that’s dangerous.”
It is. Kicking President Trump off Twitter, as Senator Kamala Harris wants, or limiting the political speech of President Trump as Senator Elizabeth Warren advocates for, are just the latest examples of this.
Suppressing free speech of political opponents and opposing views because you think it will help pass a bill or win an election is short-sighted and dangerous.
There are some values that are timeless. Principles need to be equally applied at all times. Free speech is a timeless value that must be applied equally regardless of the outcome.
While companies like Facebook are private platforms that make their own rules, it’s critical from a business perspective and principled perspective that they respect freedom of expression.
Let’s hope they continue to ensure that they equally apply their rules and not allow bias to creep into how minority, conservative, or unpopular voices are treated.
Likewise, they should not bend to political pressure from those who simply seek their own intended political ends.