The Tea: Mark Zuckerberg has a duty to curb fake news

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The Tea: Mark Zuckerberg has a duty to curb fake news

Tommy Mozier, Opinion Editor

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Standing in front of a packed room at Georgetown University on Oct. 17, Mark Zuckerberg looked as pristine as he could. Fit, groomed and confident, portraying himself as the ultimate protector of free speech and expression in America. He went so far as to reference icons of free speech like Fredrick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr., as if they were watching him, nodding approvingly as Zuckerberg single-handedly defended the First Amendment from all attackers.

It was as if Zuckerberg’s social media empire doesn’t give a platform to the fake news that misinforms millions of people. As if Facebook doesn’t intrude on its users privacy and sells their data to the highest bidder. As if 47 state attorneys general did not open an antitrust investigation into his bloated empire.

When Zuckerberg possibly stole the idea of Facebook in 2003, he likely did not envision it growing large enough to heavily impact a presidential race. But, it did grow that large. And now, he doesn’t know what to do.

Facebook is not subject to government regulation, but Zuckerberg has made the First Amendment the cornerstone of his platforms. That’s admirable, but even freedom of speech has restrictions. Because of this, Zuckerberg is making Facebook act as its own judge of content, deciding which content is worth removing.  And it’s failing. Facebook is not properly balancing free speech with the spread of intentional misinformation. 

Speaking at Georgetown, Zuckerberg acknowledged the First Amendment’s limits and that Facebook needs to censor particular content. He mentioned terrorist propaganda, bullying of young people and pornography as content worth removing, but struck a different tone on fake news.

In general, I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy,” Zuckerberg told the crowd. 

That would be true, if Facebook was just another private company. But unfortunately for us, it’s not. It permeates all parts of internet life. It can change world governments and impacts society and culture in immeasurable ways.

Whether he wanted it or not, Zuckerberg now has a duty to to curb fake news and the spread of misinformation. If he can’t do so, it’s time to break up his empire and knock him from his pedestal.