Mark Zuckerberg gave a big speech
about his and Facebook’s commitment to free speech - or as he liked to call it throughout, “voice”. There’s lot of commentary, but it’s worth reading the whole thing
. This was Zuckerberg very much in world leader mode and, as Rowland Manthorpe says
, the real audience was policy makers and regulators in Washington (and perhaps Brussels).
Zuckerberg’s two most interesting arguments are, first, that “voice” is more or less synonymous with progress (one of the most powerful people in the world is a Whig
!) and, two, that Facebook represents a bulwark against a Chinese internet that (as he’s been saying for a while
) is an attack vector for the export of authoritarianism. Both arguments contain important truths, though I’m a little more skeptical than Zuckerberg that step changes in voice “empower the powerless” so much as shaking up intra-elite competition.
It’s a common tech-utopian blindspot to assume that anything that is good at the unit scale will remain straightforwardly good when multiplied billions of times over. Even apparently fundamental political concepts change at scale, as my friend Jamie Susskind shows in his excellent book Future Politics
(which Zuck should read). I certainly don’t believe we should scrap free expression, but I agree with the argument that we lack the infrastructure to make it work
in the internet age. There’s lots of work to do.