My Pledge Regarding Facebook, Lies, And Free Speech

I welcome your feedback on my Facebook pledge (and of course recognize the irony of posting it on Facebook for feedback). But you can see where I’m headed, and you can expect to see far fewer posts from me in the future. (Thank you to my 1st Amendment friends who gave me early feedback — you know who you are.)

My Pledge Regarding Facebook, Lies, And Free Speech:
What I Expect / What I Will Do

I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with Mark Zuckerberg’s refusal to accept responsibility for people spreading violence, lies, hate, and “fake news” on Facebook. While Twitter has begun to label tweets with disputed or misleading information, Facebook’s position, as articulated by Zuckerberg, is that social media sites are not publishers and should not be arbiters of the truth. Zuckerberg argues that Facebook is protecting free speech. From the 2016 election until today, I believe it is obvious that Facebook has allowed governments, organizations and individuals to exploit its platform in ways that undermine our democratic society.

Until Facebook joins Twitter in labeling false information, I pledge to

  • Never advertise on Facebook.
  • Never purchase goods or services sold or advertised through Facebook.
  • Limit my time and posts on Facebook as much as possible.
  • Restrict posts to specific needs such as important personal, neighborhood or business communications.
  • Communicate privately by means other than Facebook Messenger whenever possible.

Facebook can monitor, flag, and as appropriate remove violent and dangerous content and verifiable lies without infringing on First Amendment rights. “Free Speech” refers to the right of people to speak freely without government interference. Constitutional guarantees do not apply to corporations, which have no obligation to:

  • Allow the dissemination of demonstrable lies, false advertising, and other behaviors that risk civil order and democracy.
  • Allow government officials to threaten violence and spread fear.
  • Refuse to verify posts as coming from humans rather than bots.
  • Tolerate racist, sexist, and homophobic organizations.
  • Allow denial of the Holocaust and spread Antisemitism.
  • Allow the spreading lies about health, medicine, vaccinations, climate change, and science generally.
  • Treat easily verifiable lies as truth.

Facebook is a corporation whose goal is to maximize profits for its shareholders. It will only change its corporate behavior when required by government or demanded by its users and advertisers.

This pledge aims to encourage Facebook users to send a tangible, revenue-impacting message to Facebook executives: business as usual is unacceptable. Preserving American democracy is more important than maximizing Facebook’s profits.

(Other Facebook users have chosen to delete their accounts or adopt more or less restrictive guidelines than mine. There is no single right answer.)