Aaron Sorkin Botches Key Details In NYT Op-Ed Scolding Zuckerberg for Free Speech Stand

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg enters the office of Senator Josh Hawley while meeting with lawmakers to discuss “future internet regulation” on Capitol Hill, September 19, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter of the critical Mark Zuckerberg biography “The Social Network,” took aim at the Facebook CEO over free speech in a New York Times op-ed written Thursday, but made a number of factual errors which resulted in a correction from the paper.

Sorkin’s main issue stemmed from Zuckerberg’s speech earlier this month at Georgetown and comments made to the Washington Post, in which he defended Facebook’s policy of allowing political campaigns to run advertisements, even if they contain misleading or false information.

“People worry, and I worry deeply, too, about an erosion of truth,” Zuckerberg told the Post at the time. “At the same time, I don’t think people want to live in a world where you can only say things that tech companies decide are 100 percent true.” Earlier this week, it was revealed that Facebook employees were protesting the policy internally. 

“This 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 Thursday. “Lies that have a very real and incredibly dangerous effect on our elections and our lives and our children’s lives.”

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But Sorkin’s editorial contained several inaccuracies, including misstating the release year of Sorkin’s own film. “The Social Network” was released in 2010, not 2011, as Sorkin originally wrote.

“Half of Americans say Facebook is their main source of news,” Sorkin also said despite a complete lack of evidence. Forty four percent of Americans report having accessed news on Facebook, according to a Pew Research poll, but there is no evidence that half of Americans consider Facebook their primary source for news.

Sorkin also incorrectly stated that billionaire tech mogul Peter Thiel sued now-defunct news site Gawker for defamation, when Thiel sued Gawker for invasion of privacy.

In response to requests to amend the errors, the Times ultimately posted a lengthy correction accompanying Sorkin’s op-ed.

In response to Sorkin’s accusations, Zuckerberg posted a quote from Sorkin’s 1995 film “The American President” on Facebook.

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, October 31, 2019

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