Facebook Under Fire

Free speech continues to fall out of favor with big American corporations.

Douglas Andrews · Jul. 13, 2020

If you want to look skinny, surround yourself with fat people. Likewise, if you want to look like you’re a fan of the First Amendment, surround yourself with social media CEOs.

So it is with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is anything but a free-speech absolutist but who has nonetheless been taking fire from the woke Left and a host of craven corporate virtue signalers for a few weeks now. His crime? Refusing to join Twitter and the other major social media platforms in censoring political speech.

“Now,” as NPR reports, “more than 400 companies, from Coca-Cola and Adidas to Ford and Lego, have vowed to halt advertising on the social network, in a growing protest over how it handles hate speech and other harmful content.”

The boycott is called “Stop Hate for Profit,” and the list of herd-following corporate censors is now nearing 1,000. As NPR continues, “The campaign takes aim at Facebook’s advertising juggernaut, which accounted for more than 98% of the company’s nearly $70 billion in revenue last year. The stated goal: ‘to force [CEO] Mark Zuckerberg to address the effect that Facebook has had on our society.’”

Somewhere in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping is smiling broadly. After all, he didn’t have to lift a finger to convince corporate America to throw in with the speech-censoring Left. The Communist Chinese must thus feel mighty emboldened about their crackdown on pro-democracy Hong Kongers and thoroughly vindicated for their strong-arm treatment of the NBA a few months ago, when they forced the league to denounce one of its own for having had the temerity to tweet, “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

Free speech no longer seems quite so free, does it?

Despite having lost more than $7 billion of personal wealth in a single day, Zuckerberg has so far held firm, much to the chagrin of boycott organizers such as the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, and even more to the chagrin of someone named Rashad Robinson, who runs Color of Change, an organization that, according to its Twitter account, designs “campaigns powerful enough to end practices that unfairly hold Black people back, & champion[s] solutions that move us all forward.”

It’s remarkable that a relative runt like Robinson can hold a mega-billion-dollar tech giant like Facebook hostage, but these are woke times in which we live. “They have had our demands for years and yet it is abundantly clear that they are not yet ready to address the vitriolic hate on their platform,” Robinson tweeted last week.

As National Review’s Rich Lowry put it, “Internet companies are always going to be engaged in the fraught business of drawing the line between what’s permissible or not, but the current Facebook controversy is more consequential than that. The company is the target of left-wing activists who, with the ready assent of corporate America, have been able to force a wave of cancellations around the culture and now seek to bend a social media behemoth to their will.”

Years ago, it would’ve been unthinkable to imagine the American Left and corporate America finding common cause with the Communist Chinese in opposition to something so fundamentally American. But there they are, and the stakes are high. As Lowry points out, “If Zuckerberg can nonetheless be browbeaten out of his well-considered support for a free-speech-centric approach to his platform, it will be a particularly portentous omen in a period of our national life full of them.”

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