World

Martin Luther King's daughter bristles at Zuckerberg's use of civil rights icon in speech

Disinformation campaigns helped lead to the assassination of Martin Luther King, the daughter of the U.S. civil rights champion said on Thursday, after the head of Facebook said social media should not fact-check political advertisements.

Facebook CEO cited MLK in wide-ranging speech on company's challenges

The Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, addresses a gathering at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in 2018. (Todd Kirkland/The Associated Press)

Disinformation campaigns helped lead to the assassination of Martin Luther King, the daughter of the U.S. civil rights champion said on Thursday, after the head of Facebook said social media should not fact-check political advertisements.

The comments come as Facebook Inc. is under fire for its approach to political advertisements and speech, which Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg defended on Thursday in a major speech that twice referenced King, known by the initials MLK.

King's daughter, Bernice, tweeted that she had heard the speech. "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," she wrote from the handle @BerniceKing.

King died of an assassin's bullet in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968.

Zuckerberg, in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., argued that his company should give voice to minority views and said that court protection for free speech stemmed in part from a case involving a partially inaccurate advertisement by King supporters. The U.S. Supreme Court protected the supporters from a lawsuit.

Watch: Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook & freedom of expression

"We very much appreciate Ms. King's offer to meet with us. Her perspective is invaluable and one we deeply respect. We look forward to continuing this important dialogue with her in Menlo Park next week," a Facebook spokesperson said.

Facebook has come under fire in the U.S. for its inability to stop thousands of propaganda accounts, many originating in Russia, ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

As the 2020 election looms, Democrats such as Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren have criticized the social media platform for allowing campaign ads for Donald Trump that they say are full of falsehoods.

In his speech, Zuckerberg argued that Facebook shouldn't put its thumb on the scale when it comes to political ads, arguing it was best left to voters to assess the truthfulness of candidates. He also argued the platform is now more transparent in communicating the source of political ads than traditional broadcast media.

"People should decide what is credible, not tech companies," Zuckerberg said.

Warren was unimpressed with these views on Thursday, tweeting, "Mark Zuckerberg's speech today shows how little he learned from 2016, and how unprepared Facebook is to handle the 2020 election."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.