After Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced on Wednesday that Twitter would no longer publish political ads, implicitly attacking Facebook, which still accepts political ads and had announced its earnings the same day, by writing, “We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought … This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg fired back defending free speech.
Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook: “I believe strongly — and I believe that history supports — that free expression has been important for driving progress and building more inclusive societies around the world,” as well as “I think we also need to be careful about adopting more and more rules that restrict the way that people can speak and what they can say.” He also stated, “In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news.”
Some excerpts from Zuckerberg’s post below:
Today I want to focus on talking about principles. Because from a business perspective, it might be easier for us to choose a different path than the one we’re taking. So I want to make sure everyone is clear about what we stand for, and why we’re making some of the decisions we’re making.
I gave a speech a couple weeks ago about the importance of standing for voice and free expression. I believe strongly — and I believe that history supports — that free expression has been important for driving progress and building more inclusive societies around the world, that at times of social tension there has often been urge to pull back on free expression, and that we will be best served over the long term by resisting this urge and defending free expression.
… But while we work hard to remove content that can cause real danger, I think we also need to be careful about adopting more and more rules that restrict the way that people can speak and what they can say.
Right now, the content debate is about political ads. Should we block political ads with false statements? Should we block all political ads? Google, YouTube and most internet platforms run these same ads, most cable networks run these same ads, and of course national broadcasters are required by law to run them by FCC regulations. I think there are good reasons for this. In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news. And although I’ve considered whether we should not carry these ads in the past, and I’ll continue to do so, on balance so far I’ve thought we should continue …
Some people accuse us of allowing this speech because they think all we care about is making money. That’s wrong. I can assure you, from a business perspective, the controversy this creates far outweighs the very small percent of our business that these political ads make up. We estimate these ads from politicians will be less than 0.5% of our revenue next year …
Other people say this policy is a part of a broader pattern of us building a system that incentivizes inflammatory content to fuel our business. Again, to the contrary, I think we’ve done more than any of the other major internet platforms to try to build positive incentives into our systems. We don’t let any of our News Feed or Instagram Feed teams set goals around increasing time spent on our services. We rank feeds to encourage meaningful social interactions — helping people connect with friends, family and their communities. We have real people come in and tell us what content they saw that was most meaningful to them and sparked valuable discussions, and then we build systems to try to surface that kind of content. We’ve taken many steps over the years to fight clickbait and polarization, and now we’re even testing removing like counts in Instagram and Facebook …
Finally, some people say this is just all a cynical political calculation and that we’re acting in a way we don’t believe because we’re just trying to appease conservatives. That’s wrong too. We face a lot of criticism from both progressives and conservatives. Frankly, if our goal were trying to make either side happy, then we’re not doing a very good job because I’m pretty sure everyone is frustrated with us.
There’s a lot at stake here. We are at a cross-roads not only in our own country, but in the future of the global internet as well. China is building its own internet and media ecosystem that’s focused on very different values. As these systems compete, the question of which nation’s values will determine what speech is allowed for decades to come really puts into perspective the issues we face today. Because while we may disagree on exactly where to draw the line on specific issues, we at least can disagree. That’s what free expression is about.
Voice and expression have been important for progress throughout history. They’ve been important in the fight for democracy worldwide. And I believe that voice and free expression are an important part of the path forward today, and that’s why our company will continue standing for these principles.