In an op-ed published Tuesday in The Daily Caller, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) recognized Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for defending free expression and acknowledging American social media companies’ responsibility to preserve it. In the face of global hostility towards free speech, specifically and recently from China, Leader McCarthy called on members of Congress and other American companies alike to similarly defend American values against threats at home and abroad.
Leader McCarthy: Mark Zuckerberg is Right to Defend Free Expression
The Daily Caller
Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy
October 22, 2019
It’s been said that the right decision isn’t always the popular one.
Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave a speech on free expression and American social media companies’ responsibility to preserve it and reject pressure to ban speech some people simply might not like.
The tech executive made clear that he is not in the business of banning political advertisements, finding the alternative to be a red line of censorship too risky for any tech company to cross. This is the right decision. It appears to not be the popular one.
Many on the left and in the media seemed uncomfortable with the notion that in a vibrant democracy, citizens have a right to hear for themselves what their potential representatives think.
I have long been a vocal challenger of “Big Tech” where it is warranted, specifically regarding anti-conservative bias and protecting users’ online privacy and data.
But I also believe we should recognize when business gets it right, especially in the face of growing global hostility towards free speech. So when it comes to defending Americans’ right to express themselves without fear of being silenced, I say Zuckerberg is spot on.
The idea of banning speech someone might not like is nonsense. But unfortunately, that mindset is creeping into places like college campuses and presidential campaigns. For his part, Zuckerberg appears to understand this, most notably when he said, “More people across the spectrum believe that achieving the political outcomes they think matter is more important than every person having a voice.” I agree that this is a dangerous trend.
The values of free expression, the First Amendment, and the freedom to debate our various ideas, are inherently American values. Everyone, especially those in Congress, must fight to protect these values against entities who do not share them or even attempt to suppress them.
Take China, for example, where millions of Hongkongers are waving the American flag as they stand for freedom and speak out against a repressive communist regime.
Just last week, China tried to get the NBA commissioner to fire the general manager of the Houston Rockets for supporting the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. So we don’t have to imagine the lengths China will go to impede our free expression and try to exert influence over our public discourse — it’s already happening.
In addition to using its economic influence to intimidate American behavior, China is building an arsenal of technological advancements that could usher in its own internet, derived from not just different values, but values that threaten ours.
We cannot let the censored internet we see abroad creep into the United States. We cannot allow other countries to set the rules for discourse in the United States.
It is up to Zuckerberg to follow through on his words, but it’s encouraging to see the head of one of the largest communications platforms in the world understand that the challenge is real. Other American companies born from the freedoms enjoyed in the United States should sense a similar responsibility to fight against it.
So while Zuckerberg’s decision to defend American values against threats at home and abroad may not have won him the popular vote, it was and is undoubtedly the right decision. I would ask those who found fault in that sentiment to imagine what it might be like to go without such inherent rights and privileges, as millions of people do everyday. Free speech will always be sought after and fought for — just try asking those halfway across the globe who don’t have it.
Kevin McCarthy is the Republican minority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has served as a congressman from California since 2007.