Nine years ago, Aaron Sorkin penned The Social Network, an irreverent cinematic account of Mark Zuckerberg’s journey that led to the creation of Facebook. Zuckerberg, very notably, was not a fan of the film, taking multiple opportunities to speak on the its “inaccuracies” and “hurtful” portrayal of him as a ruthless jerk. Sorkin has remained fairly silent about Zuckerberg’s criticism, choosing to let the work speak for itself. Now that the social media mainstay has remained the subject of heavy scrutiny after providing ample space for political platforms that intentionally spread false information, the screenwriter has taken to the New York Times with an open letter to the social media CEO, condemning him for his lack of action:
“The tagline on the artwork for The Social Network read, in 2010, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” That number sounds quaint just nine years later because one-third of the planet uses your website now.
And right now, on your website, is an ad claiming that Joe Biden gave the Ukrainian attorney general a billion dollars not to investigate his son. Every square inch of that is a lie and it’s under your logo. That’s not defending free speech, Mark, that’s assaulting truth.
You and I want speech protections to make sure no one gets imprisoned or killed for saying or writing something unpopular, not to ensure that lies have unfettered access to the American electorate.”
And since he was already in full swing, Sorkin took a few beats to address some of the slowly simmering, 9-year-old contention surrounding The Social Network, pointing out that the Facebook team was consulted prior to the film’s release (and after the scripted was “heavily vetted” by a team of lawyers, because who out here is trying to get sued by a litigation-happy billionaire?):
“Even after the screenplay for “The Social Network” satisfied the standards of Sony’s legal department, we sent the script — as promised over a handshake — to a group of senior lieutenants at your company and invited them to give notes. (I was asked if I would change the name of Harvard University to something else and if Facebook had to be called Facebook.).”
But perhaps the most entertaining tidbit from this public call-out centers on a screening that Sorkin arranged for Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, an excerpt that blends reveals, a slight jab, a question of moral fiber, and a dash of fan fiction. We wouldn’t expect anything less from the mind behind The Newsroom:
After we’d shot the movie, we arranged a private screening of an early cut for your chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. Ms. Sandberg stood up in the middle of the screening, turned to the producers who were standing in the back of the room, and said, “How can you do this to a kid?” (You were 27 years old at the time, but all right, I get it.)
I hope your C.O.O. walks into your office, leans in (as she suggested we do in her best selling book), and says, “How can we do this to tens of millions of kids? Are we really going to run an ad that claims Kamala Harris ran dog fights out of the basement of a pizza place while Elizabeth Warren destroyed evidence that climate change is a hoax and the deep state sold meth to Rashida Tlaib and Colin Kaepernick?”
The letter comes just one day after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter would be banning all political ads beginning this November. With mounting pressure on Zuckerberg and his team to seriously examine and amend their own shitty policies, we’ll have to see if and how the social media tycoon plans to respond.