Facebook Chairman and CEO Zuckerberg speaks out for first time since meetings with conservatives
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Facebook Chairman and CEO Zuckerberg speaks out for first time since meetings with conservatives

and to lead this conversation as the
founder of Facebook he helped usher in the age of social
media by growing the platform since 2004 to become the largest social media
network on the planet as Facebook’s enduring CEO responsible for setting the
overall direction and product strategy of the company he’s playing a central
role in social medias second act as it unfolds today and so without further ado
it is my honor to welcome to the stage mr. Mark Zuckerberg pavulon it’s it’s really great to be
here at Georgetown with all of you today before we get started I just want to
take a moment to acknowledge that today we lost him icon Elijah Cummings
he was a powerful voice for equality and for social progress and for bringing
people together back when when I was in college our our country had just gone to
war in Iraq and the mood on our campus was disbelief a lot of people felt like
we were acting without hearing a lot of important perspectives and the toll on
on soldiers and their families and our national psyche was was severe yet most
of us felt like we were powerless to do anything about it and I remember feeling
that if more people had a voice to share their experiences then maybe it could
have gone differently and those early years shaped my belief that giving more
people a voice gives power to the powerless and pushes society to get
better over time now back then I was just building an early version of
Facebook for my community but I got a chance to see my values and beliefs play
out at a smaller scale and when students got to express who they were and what
mattered to them they started more student groups they organized more
businesses and you know they even challenged some established ways of
doing things around campus and it taught me the lesson that while a lot of the
world often focuses on the big events and institutions the bigger stories that
most progress in our lives actually comes from individuals having more of a
voice so since then I’ve focused on building services that do two things
give people a voice and bring people together
and these two simple ideas of voice and inclusion go hand-in-hand and we’ve seen
this throughout history even if it doesn’t always seem that way today you
know more people being able to share their experiences and perspectives has
always been necessary to build a more inclusive society and it is our
commitment to each other that we hold each other’s right to express ourselves
and be heard above our own desire to always get our way in every debate
that’s how we make progress together but this view is is increasingly being
challenged now some people believe that giving more people a voice is driving
division rather than bringing people together more people across the spectrum
believe that achieving the political outcomes that they think matter is more
important than every person having a voice in being heard and I think that
that’s dangerous so today I want to talk about why and some of the important
choices around free expression that I think that we face going forward
throughout history we’ve seen how being able to use your voice how people be
able to use their voice helps people come together and we’ve seen this in the
civil rights movement Frederick Douglass once called a free expression the great
moral renovator of our society he said slavery cannot tolerate free speech
civil rights leaders argued time and again that their protests were a
protected form of expression and one noted that nearly all of the cases
involving the civil rights movement were decided on First Amendment grounds we’ve
seen this globally to where the ability to speak freely has been central to the
fight for democracy worldwide the most repressive societies have always
restricted speech the most and when people are finally able to speak they
often use their voice to call for change and this year alone people have used
their voices to end multiple long-running dictatorships in northern
Africa and we’re already starting to hear from people whose voices had been
looted just because they were women or because they believed in democracy now
our idea of free expression has become much broader over even the last hundred
years many Americans know about the enlightenment history and how we
enshrined the first amendment into our Constitution but fewer know just how
dramatically our cultural norms and legal protections have expanded even in
recent history the first Supreme Court case to seriously consider free speech
in the First Amendment was in 1919 Schank versus the United States and back
then the First Amendment only applied to the federal government so states could
and often did restrict your right to speak our ability to call out things
that we felt were wrong also used to be a lot more restricted no libel laws used
to impose damages if you said something negative about someone even if it was
true the standard then shifted so that way it was okay as long as you could
prove that your critique was true and we didn’t get the broad free speech
protections that we have now until the 1960s when the Supreme Court ruled in
opinions like New York Times where Sullivan that you can criticize public
figures as long as you’re not doing so with actual malice even if what you’re
saying is false so we don’t have significantly broader power to call out
things that we feel are unjust and share our own personal experiences and we see
movements like black lives matter and me to spread and go viral on Facebook the
hashtag black lives matter was actually mentioned for the first time on Facebook
and this just wouldn’t been possible in the same way before you know just a
hundred years back many of the stories that people are sharing now would have
been against the law to even write down and of course without the internet they
certainly wouldn’t have reached so many people so with Facebook today more than
two billion people now have a greater opportunity to express themselves in to
help others now while it’s easy to focus on the the big social movements I think
it’s important to remember that most progress have
in our individual lives it’s the Air Force moms who start a Facebook group so
that their children and other service members who can’t come home for the
holidays have a place to go it’s the the church group that comes together after
the hurricane to provide food and to volunteer to help rebuild it’s the small
business on the corner that now has access to the same sophisticated tools
that only the big guys used to have access to so now you know they can get
their voice out to reach customers create more jobs in their town and
become a social hub in their community progress and social cohesion come from
billions of stories like this happening all around the world people having the
power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world
it is a fifth estate alongside the other power structures in our society and you
know people no longer have to rely on traditional gatekeepers in politics or
media to make their voices heard and and that has important consequences and I
understand the concerns that people have about how tech platforms have have
centralized power but I actually believe that a much bigger story is how much
these platforms have decentralized power by putting it directly into people’s
hands it’s it’s part of this amazing expansion of voice that we have
experienced through law and culture and now technology as well so giving people
a voice and broader inclusion go hand-in-hand and the trend has certainly
been towards us getting much greater voice over time but there’s also an
important counter trend which is that in times of social tension our impulse is
often to pull back on free expression because we want the progress that comes
from from free expression but we don’t want the tension we saw this when Martin
Luther King jr. wrote his famous letter from a Birmingham jail where he was
unconstitutionally jailed for protesting peacefully and we saw this in the effort
to shut down campus protests during the Vietnam War we saw this way back when
America was deeply polarized about its role in
world war 1 and the Supreme Court ruled at the time that the socialist leader
Eugene Debs could be imprisoned for making an anti-war speech in the end all
of these decisions were wrong pulling back on free expression wasn’t the
answer and in fact it often ends up hurting the minority views that we seek
to protect now from where we are today it seems obvious that of course protests
for civil rights or making a speech against a war should be allowed yet this
desire to suppress this expression was still deeply buy a lot of society at the
time and today we are in another moment of social tension we face real issues
that are going to take a long time to work through massive economic
transitions from globalization and technology fallout that remains from the
2008 financial crisis very polarized reactions to social issues and and
greater migration not just here but across the EU and around the world and
you know many of our issues flow downstream from these changes and in the
face of these tensions once again a popular impulse is to pull back on free
expression we’re at another crossroads we can either continue to stand for free
expression understanding its messiness but believing that the long journey
towards greater progress requires confronting ideas that challenge us or
we can decide that the cost is simply too great and I’m here today because I
believe that we must continue to stand for free expression now at the same time
I know that free expression has never been absolute right there are some
people who argue that internet platforms should allow all expression that is
protected under the First Amendment even though the First Amendment explicitly
doesn’t apply to companies now I’m proud that our values at Facebook are inspired
by the American tradition which is more supportive a free expression than
anywhere else in the world but even American tradition recognizes that some
speech and fringes on other people’s rights yet still
first amendment standard might require us to allow things like terrorist
propaganda or bullying people that almost everyone agrees that we should
stop and I certainly do as well as content like pornography that would just
make a lot of people uncomfortable using our platforms so once we’re taking this
content down the question is where do you draw the line
so most people would agree with the principle that you should be able to say
things that people don’t like but you shouldn’t be able to say things that put
other people in real danger and the shift over the last several years is
that more people today would argue that more speech is dangerous now and then
would have just a several years back so this raises this question of exactly
what counts as dangerous speech online and I would like to spend some time
examining that in detail today so many of the arguments about online speech are
related to new properties of the Internet itself you know if you believe
that the Internet is completely different from everything that comes
before it then it doesn’t make much sense to focus a lot on historical
precedent but I believe that we need to be careful about such overly broad
arguments because they’ve been made about pretty much every new technology
from the printing press to the radio to the television instead I think that we
need to consider the specific ways that the internet is different and how
internet services like ours might address those risks while still
protecting free expression so perhaps the clearest difference with the
internet is the now a lot more people have a voice in almost half of the
world’s population and that is dramatically empowering for all the
reasons that I’ve mentioned but inevitably some people are gonna use
their voice to try to organize violence to try to undermine elections to to hurt
others and we have a responsibility to address these risks because when you’re
serving billions of people even if a very small percent of them cause harm
that can still be a lot of harm so we need to address that and we built

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