Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg turned the tables on Hollywood screenwriter Aaron Sorkin by using Sorkin’s own words against him in response to an op-ed critical of Facebook’s stance on political speech.
On Thursday, Sorkin penned an open letter in The New York Times to Zuckerberg and began by recalling the feud they had during the release of the 2010 film “The Social Network,” which is based on the founding of Facebook but was slammed by Zuckerberg over its accuracy at the time. Sorkin then pivoted to Zuckerberg’s recent remarks defending free political speech on his platform.
“I admire your deep belief in free speech. I get a lot of use out of the First Amendment. Most important, it’s a bedrock of our democracy and it needs to be kept strong,” Sorkin wrote. “But this 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.”
The “West Wing” scribe then knocked the presence of a political ad attacking former Vice President Joe Biden’s involvement in Ukraine’s political dealings, telling Zuckerberg, “That’s not defending free speech, Mark, that’s assaulting truth.”
Aaron Sorkin, left, penned an op-ed critical of Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership of Facebook.
“You and I 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,” Sorkin explained.
He then pointed to the fiery exchange Zuckerberg had with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who pressed the CEO about whether his site fact-checks politicians during a hearing on Capitol Hill.
“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 told Ocasio-Cortez earlier this month.
Sorkin finished his letter: “Now you tell me. If I’d known you felt that way, I’d have had the Winklevoss twins invent Facebook.”
In response, Zuckerberg took a quote from Sorkin’s own screenplay from classic 1995 Rob Reiner 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.”
That was a monologue given by Michael Douglas, who played President Andrew Shepard in the film.