NY Times Loudly Hails Tiny Internal Facebook ‘Dissent’ Against Free Expression

November 1st, 2019 11:14 AM

The New York Times war against online political speech it disapproves of continues apace. Technology reporter Mike Isaac made the front of Tuesday’s Business section with “Dissent Erupts At Facebook.”

The Times cleverly featured excerpts from a letter posted by “dissenting” Facebook employees, broadcasting their opposition to free political speech on the platform, in a large typeface, within a graphic that took up the entire top of the front Business page in print. It made the message resonate even louder by being packaged within an ostensibly objective news story. (In contrast, conservative-leaning dissenters at social media companies, such as former Google engineer James Damore, are personally condemned by the Times.)

Isaac withheld facts from the first paragraph of his "news" story to enhance the corny, pseudo-dramatic effect of the “dissenters” brave stance against free expression of political positions (pro-Trump ones, anyway).

The letter was aimed at Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and his top lieutenants. It decried the social network’s recent decision to let politicians post any claims they wanted -- even false ones -- in ads on the site. It asked Facebook’s leaders to rethink the stance.

The message was written by Facebook’s own employees.

Facebook’s position on political advertising is “a threat to what FB stands for,” the employees wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times. “We strongly object to this policy as it stands.”

For the past two weeks, the text of the letter has been publicly visible on Facebook Workplace, a software program that the Silicon Valley company uses to communicate internally. More than 250 employees have signed the message, according to three people who have seen it and who declined to be identified for fear of retaliation.

While the number of signatures on the letter was a fraction of Facebook’s 35,000-plus work force, it was one sign of the resistance that the company is now facing internally over how it treats political ads.


For weeks, Facebook has been under attack by presidential candidates, lawmakers and civil rights groups over its position on political ads. But the employee actions -- which are a rare moment of internal strife for the company -- show that even some of its own workers are not convinced the political ads policy is sound. The dissent is adding to Facebook’s woes as it heads into the 2020 presidential election season.

It’s left unacknowledged that the villains of the piece are Trump-connected, and the politicians who agree with the heroic Facebook dissenters are Democratic candidates who want to defeat Trump in 2020.

This month, President Trump’s campaign began circulating an ad on Facebook that made false claims about former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr., who is running for president. When Mr. Biden’s campaign asked Facebook to remove the ad, the company refused, saying ads from politicians were newsworthy and important for discourse.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat from Massachusetts who is also running for president, soon took Facebook to task....


But Mr. Zuckerberg doubled down. In a 5,000-word speech to students at Georgetown University in Washington this month, the chief executive defended his treatment of political ads by citing freedom of expression. He said Facebook’s policies would be seen positively in the long run, especially when compared with policies in countries like China, where the government suppresses online speech.

Isaac finally conceded a fact too often skipped during this debate:

....Federal law mandates that broadcast networks cannot censor political ads from candidates running for office.

Meaning that Facebook is basically going by the same guidelines that the networks follow.

Inside Facebook, Mr. Zuckerberg’s decision to be hands-off on political ads has supporters. But dissenters said Facebook was not doing enough to check the lies from spreading across the platform.

Isaac tried to keep the controversy going on Thursday, spinning another financially successful quarter :“Facebook Woes Aren’t Reflected In Its Earnings and Revenues.”

Thursday’s front page featured Kate Conger hailing Twitter for announcing a ban on political ads (which Media Research Center Founder and President Brent Bozell warned would “further limit the ability of conservatives to get their message heard”).

In paragraph one, Conger immediately tried to leverage Twitter’s move as “ramping up pressure on Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, to reverse his hands-off stance.”