Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter behind “The Social Network,” published a scathing open letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday that rebuked the Facebook founder for allowing misleading and false political ads on the site.
“That’s not defending free speech, Mark, that’s assaulting truth,” Sorkin wrote in his letter, published as a New York Times editorial.
“You and I want speech protections to make sure no one gets imprisoned or killed for saying or writing something unpopular, not to ensure that lies have unfettered access to the American electorate,” he continued.
The screenwriter, whose 2010 film depicts the early days of Facebook, took particular issue with an attack ad from President Donald Trump’s campaign. The ad, which Facebook has refused to take down despite widespread outcry from Democrats, claims former Vice President Joe Biden tried bribing Ukraine’s attorney general on behalf of his son.
“Every square inch of that is a lie and it’s under your logo,” Sorkin said.
Zuckerberg responded indirectly through his Facebook page, where he posted a quote from 1995′s “The American President” ― which Sorkin wrote ― that appears at odds with the values the screenwriter was espousing.
“Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours,” read the quote in part.
The feud stems from Facebook’s decision not to scrutinize political advertising on the site except in extreme cases. Zuckerberg has cloaked the policy with the First Amendment, arguing that corporations such as his should not police what politicians say even if their statements are demonstrably false. He presented his argument in a winding, 35-minute speech at Georgetown University earlier this month, and again during a congressional hearing last week.
The Facebook exec has stuck by his position even after Democratic politicians began highlighting what the policy means in practice by running false ads about Zuckerberg and his platform. He again stood firm after Twitter founder Jack Dorsey announced his site would no longer accept political ads of any kind ― with a not-so-veiled message to Zuckerberg, who pushed back in a Facebook earnings call.
In his letter, Sorkin also acknowledged that “The Social Network” was not well received by the company’s leadership in 2010. When Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg saw an early cut, she said to producers, according to Sorkin, “How can you do this to a kid?”
“I hope your C.O.O. 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?’” Sorkin retorted.