New York Times Opposes Free Speech When Trump Uses It, Plays Defense for Dems

October 18th, 2019 11:18 PM

The New York Times, keeping support for free expression at arms length when it appears President Trump may employ it for his reelection campaign.

The paper was alarmed by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who announced that Facebook would not serve a privatized Ministry of Truth for political ads in 2020, no matter how much The Times (representing the aggrieved Democratic Party) may whine.

Cecilia Kang and Mike Isaac listened to Zuckerberg’s speech Thursday at Georgetown University and filed “Defiant Zuckerberg Says Facebook Won’t Police Political Speech -- In an address at Georgetown University, the Facebook chief executive called for more free speech -- not less -- as his company has been assailed for allowing lies and falsehoods to appear.

It topped the front page of Friday’s Business Day section, with a large photo of Zuckerberg strolling up to the lectern at GU’s Gaston Hall.

Zuckerberg’s refusal to squelch campaign claims dismayed The Times (click "expand"):

Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday gave a full-throated defense of Facebook as a champion of free expression, fighting the idea that the social network needs to be an arbiter of speech even as it has faced blowback for leaving up false political ads going into the 2020 presidential election.

In a winding, 35-minute speech at Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall -- where presidents and foreign heads of state have delivered addresses -- the Facebook chief executive said the social network had been founded to give people a voice and bring them together, and that critics who had assailed the company for doing so were setting a dangerous example.

To make his case, Mr. Zuckerberg invoked Frederick Douglass, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Vietnam War and the First Amendment. He contrasted Facebook’s position with that of China, where the authorities control and censor speech, and which he tried unsuccessfully for years to enter to turbocharge his company’s business.


The address by the tech billionaire was an unusually public doubling down on free expression online as debate over that stance has ramped up. It was a sign that Mr. Zuckerberg was going on the offense against critics who have accused Facebook of being an amplifier of disinformation, hate speech and violent content.

Mr. Zuckerberg made his stand as Facebook has grappled with a firestorm over political speech in recent weeks. Last month, the company unveiled a sweeping policy in which it said it would not moderate politicians’ speech or fact-check their political ads because the comments by political leaders, even if false, were newsworthy and in the public’s interest to hear and debate.

That quickly drew condemnation. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, accused Facebook of being a “disinformation-for-profit machine.”....And civil rights groups censured the company for allowing lies and falsehoods to appear on its site.

On Thursday, Mr. Zuckerberg’s speech was also lambasted.

“Zuckerberg attempted to use the Constitution as a shield for his company’s bottom line, and his choice to cloak Facebook’s policy in a feigned concern for free expression demonstrates how unprepared his company is for this unique moment in our history and how little it has learned over the past few years,” said Bill Russo, a spokesman for the presidential campaign of Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The editors even used that quote as the story’s text box.

Note, since the paper failed to, that the complainers are all leftists and/or potential Democratic rivals of President Trump.

Facebook’s policy on political speech was put to the test this month when the Trump campaign released a 30-second video ad that falsely claimed Mr. Biden committed corrupt acts in Ukraine. The ad played across social media outlets and on some broadcast networks; CNN and NBCU declined to air it because they said the ad violated their standards.

(Indeed, Kang previously whined that Facebook wouldn’t censor the ad, under the headline “Facebook Won’t Pull Ads That Lie.” But who gets to decide what’s a “lie”?):

Civil rights groups said they were stunned by how hands-off Facebook was being on political speech. By giving politicians free rein to post any material -- even lies -- that potentially sets up the social network for more disinformation efforts ahead of the 2020 election, they said.

The paper’s standard labeling slant prevailed. Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights,” a “coalition” which apparently had no ideological lean, though it’s left-wing pitch is obvious from its roll call of members. But a Koch Brothers-related organization, which welcomed Zuckerberg’s words, was marked as “conservative.”

The journalistic enterprise known as The New York Times has acquired a strange and hypocritical distaste for free expression as conservatives have made inroads online, especially on social media.

When some Supreme Court cases failed to go the left’s way in the summer of 2018, the paper trashed the First Amendment they once supposedly revered. Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak gave the reversal his seal of approval on the front page: “How  Free Speech Was Weaponized By Conservatives.”