- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2019

Bernice King, the only surviving daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., called out Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for defending his company from criticism by invoking the slain civil rights leader during a recent speech.

Mr. Zuckerberg repeatedly cited Ms. King’s late father during an address Thursday at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where the Facebook executive touted the social network as a vital platform for freedom of expression in the face of growing calls for his company to do more to fight the spread of disinformation.

“I heard #MarkZuckerberg’s ‘free expression’ speech, in which he referenced my father,” Ms. King reacted on Twitter afterward. “I’d like to help Facebook better understand the challenges #MLK faced from disinformation campaigns launched by politicians. These campaigns created an atmosphere for his assassination.”

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Ms. King’s father was fatally shot in Memphis in 1968 at the age of 39. He had been the subject of bogus conspiracy theories prior to his death, including efforts by his political opponents to discredit him as a communist and sexual deviant.

Facebook has recently come under fire for refusing to fact-check political ads placed on its platform, effectively allowing candidates for office to make bogus claims unabated.

Speaking at Georgetown, Mr. Zuckerberg mentioned King twice defending Facebook’s policies as being important to freedom of expression.

“In times of social turmoil, our impulse is often to pull back on free expression. We want the progress that comes from free expression, but not the tension,” said Mr. Zuckerberg. “We saw this when Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous letter from Birmingham Jail, where he was unconstitutionally jailed for protesting peacefully.”

“Pulling back on free expression wasn’t the answer and, in fact, it often ended up hurting the minority views we seek to protect,” Mr. Zuckerberg said at Georgetown.

Mr. Zuckerberg mentioned King later in his speech while referring to a First Amendment case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy. And we’re not an outlier here. The other major internet platforms and the vast majority of media also run these same ads,” said Mr. Zuckerberg.

“American tradition also has some precedent here,” he added. “The Supreme Court case I mentioned earlier that gave us our current broad speech rights, New York Times vs Sullivan, was actually about an ad with misinformation, supporting Martin Luther King Jr. and criticizing an Alabama police department. The police commissioner sued the Times for running the ad, the jury in Alabama found against the Times, and the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision, creating today’s speech standard.”

A spokesperson for Facebook said the company appreciates Ms. King’s input and offer to meet, Reuters reported.

“Her perspective is invaluable and one we deeply respect. We look forward to continuing this important dialogue with her in Menlo Park next week,” said the spokesperson.

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