Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, suggested that freedom of speech “is being weaponized against the principles of journalism” during a Monday segment on MSNBC.
Coll, also a staff writer at The New Yorker, discussed the spread of disinformation with MSNBC host Kasie Hunt, who asked him what companies “need to do to help solve some of this.” Coll began by calling Facebook “one of the big disrupters” in terms of “the homogeneity of the media” before criticizing the First Amendment.
“Those of us in journalism have to come to terms with the fact that free speech, a principle that we hold sacred, is being weaponized against the principles of journalism, and what do we do about that?” Coll said on the program. “As reporters, we kind of march into this war with our facts nobly shouldered as if they were going to win the day, and what we’re seeing is that because of the scale of this alternate reality that you have been talking about, our facts, our scientific method, it isn’t enough. So what do we do?”
The Columbia University journalism dean also alleged that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s “passion” is connecting “everybody in the world.” He said Zuckerberg “profoundly believes in free speech” and that people should not expect Facebook “to adjust its motivations to preserve democracy or to do the right thing all of the time.”
“It is not something that can be changed except by changing the structure of it,” Coll said after referencing a book about “the inside account of Facebook.” (RELATED: FLASHBACK: Biden Transition Leader Says He Wants To Restrict Free Speech)
“And yes, Facebook has moved somewhat,” he noted. “They had a better election in 2020 than they did in 2016. They’ve learned to put some brakes on, you know, here and there, but you can’t get away from the fact that their mission is to connect everybody in the world. That’s what motivates Mark Zuckerberg.”
After the segment, Coll appeared to try to clarify his comments on Twitter, where one individual noted that “free speech has risks, but it’s better than the alternative” and that “we must resist” regulating it “regardless of how well-intentioned it seems.”
“I agree with this,” Coll tweeted. “I just think we could do better to recognize the destructive reality we are in.”