Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to define “free speech,” and the lawmaker’s main concern seemed to be the pro-life movement.
“I think this is a really hard question. It’s one of the reasons why we struggle with it,” Zuckerberg admitted. “There are certain definitions that we have around calling for violence.”
Sasse agreed that any content on Facebook calling for violence “shouldn’t be there” but then turned to his concerns over the fact that some far-left progressives see the First Amendment as “dangerous because you might use your freedom to say something that hurts somebody else’s feelings.”
The Nebraska conservative used the abortion debate as an example:
“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 said he “would not want that to be the case.” But Sasse didn’t seem convinced, pointing out that an open debate on the merits of the pro-life movement might be “unsettling to people who’ve had an abortion.”
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The Facebook founder said he agrees “generally” with Sasse’s concerns but indicated he’s at least open to discussing additional laws on free speech:
“I do generally agree with the point that you’re making, which is as we are able to technologically shift towards — especially having AI — proactively look at content. I think that’s going to create massive questions for society about what obligations we want to require companies to fulfill.
I do think that’s a question that we need to struggle with as a country because I know other countries are, and they’re putting laws in place. I think America needs to figure out and create the set of principles we want American companies to operate under.”
Sasse concluded his questioning period by telling Zuckerberg, “I wouldn’t want you to leave here today and think there is sort of a unified view in the Congress that you should be moving toward policing more and more and more speech.”
He added: “Adults need to engage in vigorous debates.”