The director behind "The Social Network" — the Academy Award-winning dramatization of the founding of Facebook — just published a scathing letter to Mark Zuckerberg.
In The New York Times on Thursday, director Aaron Sorkin criticized Zuckerberg's repeated defense of Facebook's political ad policy. The policy, which has come under fire from users, lawmakers, and other tech companies, states that Facebook won't police political advertising on Facebook — even if those ads contain outright lies.
"Right now, on your website, is an ad claiming that Joe Biden gave the Ukrainian attorney general a billion dollars not to investigate his son," Sorkin wrote. "Every square inch of that is a lie and it's under your logo. That's not defending free speech, Mark, that's assaulting truth."
In a speech at Georgetown University earlier this month, Zuckerberg argued that Facebook's political ad policy is build around Facebook's interest in preserving free speech.
"We don't fact-check political ads," he said. "We don't do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. And if content is newsworthy, we also won't take it down even if it would otherwise conflict with many of our standards."
Sorkin pushed back on that standard in his letter to Zuckerberg on Thursday.
"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," Sorkin wrote. "Lies that have a very real and incredibly dangerous effect on our elections and our lives and our children's lives."
In 2016, political ads with misinformation — in addition to work by Russia's Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm — aimed to influence American elections, including the US presidential election.
Though Facebook profits from political ads sold on its massive social networks, COO Sheryl Sandberg said in an interview on Wednesday with Bloomberg that a very small portion of ad revenue comes from political ads.
"We're not doing it because of the money," she said. "This is less than 1% of our revenue and the revenue is not worth the controversy."
Instead, she said, it's a measure of Facebook's belief in free speech — and political advertising "can be an important part of that."
Zuckerberg made a similar argument during his speech at Georgetown, that Facebook allowing political ads would "ensure people can see primary source speech from political figures that shapes civic discourse."
Sorkin pushed back on that argument as well in his letter to Zuckerberg.
"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 wrote.