Earlier this month in an interview with Axios, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg discussed everything from the 2016 election and Russian ads to regulation in Europe, but while the topics discussed ran the gamut, one particular portion of Sandberg’s comments stood out:
“When you cut off speech for one person, you cut off speech for all people. The responsibility of an open platform is to let people express themselves. We don’t check the information people put on Facebook before they run it.”
It is interesting to hear one of Facebook’s top executives verbally championing free speech, when the platform’s actions do the exact opposite. In the last year alone, Facebook has been caught censoring everyone from YouTube personalities to conservative activists. Facebook recently came under fire for blocking nearly two dozen Catholic pages with no explanation. The social media giant has even been criticized for censoring the ethnic cleansing currently taking place in Myanmar.
This blithe disregard for First Amendment protections establishes a pattern of misbehavior from the Silicon Valley giant, a fact that is especially ironic given Facebook’s mission to “provide a platform where people can share and surface content, messages and ideas freely.”
Free speech should not just be a talking point that can be pulled out when convenient. It is a critical and foundational element of American democracy and we must act to protect it. Unless Sandberg has had some sort of epiphany, it seems her words will ring just as hollow as the rest of Silicon Valley.