According to pollsters, 40% of Americans under age 35 think the 1st Amendment is dangerous because it allows a person to say something that could hurt another’s feelings. From the WSJ’s Notable & Quotable read why Ben Sasse is urging adults, including Mark Zuckerberg, to engage in vigorous debates over Free Speech.
Sasse: Can you define hate speech?
Zuckerberg: Senator, I think that this is a really hard question. And I think it’s one of the reasons why we struggle with it. There are certain definitions . . . that we have around, you know, calling for violence or—
Sasse: Let’s just agree on that.
Sasse: If somebody’s calling for violence, we—that shouldn’t be there. I’m worried about the psychological categories around speech. You used language of “safety” and “protection” earlier. We see this happening on college campuses all across the country. It’s dangerous. Forty percent of Americans under age 35 tell pollsters they think the First Amendment is dangerous because you might use your freedom to say something that hurts somebody else’s feelings.
Guess what? 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: I certainly would not want that to be the case.
Sasse: But it might really be unsettling to people who’ve had an abortion to have an open debate about that, wouldn’t it?
Zuckerberg: It might be, but I don’t think that that would . . . fit any of the definitions of . . . what we have. But I do generally agree with the point that you’re making, which is . . . as we’re able to technologically shift towards especially having AI proactively look at content, I think that that’s going to create massive questions for society about what obligations we want to require companies . . . to fulfill. And I do think that 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. And I think that America needs to figure out and create the set of principles that we want American companies to operate under.
Sasse: Thanks. I wouldn’t want you to leave here today and think there’s sort of a unified view in the Congress that you should be moving toward policing more and more and more speech. I think violence has no place on your platform. Sex traffickers and human traffickers have no place on your platform. But vigorous debates? Adults need to engage in vigorous debates.