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Aaron Sorkin takes on Facebook's political ad stance in NYT open letter

Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg
Photo: Sha Hanting/China News Service/VCG/Getty Images

Aaron Sorkin, who wrote "The Social Network," penned an open letter in the New York Times to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the company's stance on political ads on its platform, saying it is "not defending free speech" but "assaulting truth."

How it works, via Axios' Scott Rosenberg: Facebook's policy lets politicians make just about any claim they want, in ads or posts, including repeating verbatim a false claim that has already been labeled elsewhere as false. That means they can misstate their own record or that of an opponent.

What Sorkin is saying:

  • "[T]his can’t possibly be the outcome you and I want, to have crazy lies pumped into the water supply that corrupt the most important decisions we make together. Lies that have a very real and incredibly dangerous effect on our elections and our lives and our children’s lives."
  • "Last year, over 40 percent of Americans said they got news from Facebook. Of course the problem could be solved by those people going to a different news source, or you could decide to make Facebook a reliable source of public information."
  • "I hope [Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg] walks into your office, leans in (as she suggested we do in her best selling book), and says, 'How can we do this to tens of millions of kids? Are we really going to run an ad that claims Kamala Harris ran dog fights out of the basement of a pizza place while Elizabeth Warren destroyed evidence that climate change is a hoax and the deep state sold meth to Rashida Tlaib and Colin Kaepernick?'"

The other side: Zuckerberg hit back, posting a quote on Facebook from Sorkin's screenplay for the film "The American President."

"America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say: You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free."

Go deeper: Twitter casts itself as the anti-Facebook