×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Aaron Sorkin to Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook Is ‘Assaulting Truth’ With Political Ads Policy

UPDATED: Aaron Sorkin, who won a screenwriting Oscar for “The Social Network,” a fictionalized retelling of the early rise of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, has weighed in on the debate over the social giant’s policy to accept all political advertising regardless of whether it’s factual or not.

Sorkin’s message to Zuck: You’re wrong.

In an op-ed published Thursday in the New York Times, Sorkin expressed in an open letter to Zuckerberg admiration for the Facebook CEO’s “deep belief in free speech,” which is the justification Zuckerberg has provided for the hands-off policy on political advertising. But, Sorkin said, the Facebook decision to keep running ads for political campaigns is spreading outright lies — which have a “dangerous effect on our elections.”

“[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,” Sorkin wrote. “Lies that have a very real and incredibly dangerous effect on our elections and our lives and our children’s lives.”

Facebook’s service is currently running an ad, bought on behalf of Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, claiming that former VP Joe Biden gave the Ukrainian attorney general a $1 billion bribe to not investigate his son. “Every square inch of that is a lie and it’s under your logo,” Sorkin wrote in the op-ed. “That’s not defending free speech, Mark, that’s assaulting truth.”

Popular on Variety

Zuckerberg responded in a Facebook post by quoting from Sorkin’s script for 1995’s “The American President,” delivered in the film by Michael Douglas, who plays the titular president:

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship… 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.”

Zuckerberg, on Facebook’s quarterly earnings call Wednesday, admitted the political advertising policy was controversial even as he tried to downplay the business impact — claiming ads from political campaigns represent less than 0.5% of revenue. “This may lead to more investigations, and the candidates may criticize us,” he said. The 2020 election year is shaping up to be “a very tough year” for the company, Zuckerberg added.

Those comments, and Facebook’s report of blockbuster Q3 financial results, came just minutes after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that his company would ban all political advertising effective Nov. 22. “This isn’t about free expression,” Dorsey tweeted. “This is about paying for reach.” Dorsey took a swipe at Facebook’s position, saying, “it‘s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want!’”

In his op-ed, Sorkin recounted Zuckerberg’s “public accusation that the movie was a lie” but the screenwriter said he didn’t contest that because the screenplay for “The Social Network” was “vetted to within an inch of its life by a team of studio lawyers with one client and one goal: Don’t get sued by Mark Zuckerberg.”

Sorkin also recalled Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was invited to a preview screening of “The Social Network” and in the middle of the film turned to the producers in the room to ask, “How can you do this to a kid?” Zuckerberg was 26 at the time of the 2010 film’s release.

Regarding Facebook’s ad policies, Sorkin wrote, “I hope your COO 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?'”

Zuckerberg has faced criticism from politicians including Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton but so far has repeatedly defended his stance for Facebook to not fact-check political ads. During a tense congressional hearing last week about Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency plans, Zuckerberg was asked about the political ad policy and said, “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.”

More Politics

  • Donald Trump Again Attacks Ukraine Ambassador:

    Trump Again Attacks Former Ukraine Ambassador: 'This Was Not an Angel'

    President Trump renewed his attacks on Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, during a lengthy phone interview on “Fox & Friends” on Friday morning. Trump had been accused of witness intimidation when he tweeted an insult of Yovanovitch while she was testifying to the House Intelligence Committee last week. In the interview Friday morning, [...]

  • Sacha Baron Cohen

    Sacha Baron Cohen Rips Into Facebook, YouTube and Twitter for Spreading Lies and Hate

    Calling social media “the greatest propaganda machine in history,” and the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube “high-tech robber barons,” comedian Sacha Baron Cohen used a speech given to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) this week to call for much more stringent regulation of internet companies. “By now, it’s pretty clear they cannot be trusted to [...]

  • Michael Bloomberg Democratic National Convention

    Mike Bloomberg Aiming to Launch TV Ads on Monday (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign is in the process of reserving TV ad time in the states that will vote on March 3, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The sources said the campaign is planning to begin the ad blitz on Monday. One source said the campaign was looking to book airtime for [...]

  • Gloria Allred Prince Andrew

    Gloria Allred Says Prince Andrew Must Talk to Epstein Investigators

    Gloria Allred said Prince Andrew has an obligation to meet with investigators to disclose what he knew about Jeffrey Epstein, the multimillionaire businessman and convicted sex offender who died by suicide this past summer while on trial for sex trafficking charges. The prince was a close friend of Epstein’s, but has denied any wrong-doing. Virginia [...]

  • Jay Leno A$AP Rocky Kim Kardashian

    Jay Leno, A$AP Rocky, Kim Kardashian: What Are They Doing in the Impeachment Hearing?

    “You can tell the Kardashians you tried.” When history is written, this will stand out as one of the sadder lines spoken in two weeks of impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill. Three Hollywood figures have played off-screen roles in the Ukraine saga, standing out as curious intrusions into the House probe of international corruption, bribery [...]

  • Former White House national security aide

    Impeachment Witness Testifies Russia Is Getting What It Wanted

    A National Security Council official testified Thursday that Russia has succeeded in exacerbating domestic tensions in the U.S. and delegitimizing the U.S. presidency. Fiona Hill, a Russia expert, made a direct challenge to Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee, who have seemed to cast doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 election, and to [...]

  • From left, Democratic presidential candidates Sen.

    Democrats Debate: Rivals Target Warren's Plans, Buttigieg's Experience

    The Democratic candidates took shots at Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plans and Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s lack of experience in the fifth primary debate on Wednesday night. The debate comes at a pivotal moment for both candidates. Buttigieg has opened a lead in recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, while Warren has been forced to modify [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content