Senator Sasse Grills Zuckerberg On Conservative Censorship: “Adults Need to Engage in Vigorous Debates”

One of the biggest issues surrounding Facebook is the censorship of conservatives and non-progressive viewpoints on the platform. Often times, the left will claims something as innocuous as “I love our president” to be violent and hateful language. One of the left’s latest weapons against conservative thought and opinion is their ever-popular label “hate speech”. There’s only one problem with that, nobody exactly knows or can agree what “hate speech” actually is. Last year, CATO released a study that found 82% of those polled agreed that “it would be hard to ban hate speech because people can’t agree what speech is hateful.”

Republican senator Ben Sasse took a rare break from his frequent attacks on President Trump to actually grill Zuckerberg on his thoughts about what does and does not constitute “hate speech.” Zuckerberg attempted to define “hate speech” as speech that calls directly for violence, but Sen. Sasse interrupted him and discussed the dangers of Facebook policing speech similarly to what we’ve seen on the college campuses of America.

Transcript via Reason:

Sasse: I think regulation over time will have a hard challenge. You’re a private company so you can make policies that may be less than First Amendment full-spirit embracing, in my view. But I worry about that. I worry about a world where when you go from violent groups to hate speech in a hurry. In one of your responses to one of the opening questions, you may decide or Facebook may decide it needs to police a whole bunch of speech that I think America might be better off not having policed by one company that has a really big and powerful platform. Can you define hate speech?

Zuckerberg: Senator, I think that this is a really hard question. And I think that’s one of the reasons that we struggle with it. There are certain definitions that we have around calling for violence.

Sasse: Let’s just agree on that. If someone is calling for violence, that shouldn’t be there. I’m worried about the psychological categories around speech. You used language of safety and protection earlier. We see this happening on college campuses all across the country. It’s dangerous. Forty percent of Americans under age 35 tell pollsters they think the First Amendment is dangerous because you might use your freedom to say something that hurts someone else’s feelings. Guess what? There are some really passionately held views about the abortion issue on this panel today. Can you imagine a world where you might decide that pro-lifers are prohibited from speaking about their abortion views on your platform?

Zuckerberg: I certainly would not want that to be the case.

Sasse: But it might really be unsettling to people who have had an abortion to have an open debate about that.

Zuck: It might be, but I don’t think that that would fit any of the definitions of what we have. But I do generally agree with the point that you’re making, which is that as we are able to technologically shift toward especially having AI proactively look at content, I think that that’s going to create massive questions for society about what kinds of obligations we want to require companies to fulfill and I do think that that’s a question that we need to struggle with as a country. Because I know other countries are, and they are putting laws in place, and America needs to figure out a set of principles that we want American companies to operate under.

Sasse: I wouldn’t want you to leave here today thinking there’s a unified view in the Congress that you should be moving toward policing more and more speech. I think violence has no place no your platform, sex traffickers and human traffickers have no place on your platform. But vigorous debates, adults need to engage in vigorous debates.


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