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OPINION

Save democracy. Unfriend Facebook

Zuckerberg is selling out this nation by pretending to defend its principles

ERIC THAYER/Illustration by Globe Staff; Globe file photo

Mark Zuckerberg’s charm offensive is zero charm, and deeply offensive.

During a joint interview with his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, on “CBS This Morning,” Facebook’s CEO talked about his philanthropic initiative’s plans to “cure, prevent, or manage all diseases,” foster education equity, and address criminal justice reform.

If only he were as determined to keep Facebook from undermining our elections.

I don’t care about Zuckerberg and Chan’s meet-cute at Harvard, how they’re raising their daughters, or Chan’s assertion that her husband is “kind of a softie.” All that matters is that he won’t stop the tsunami of political propaganda and disinformation infesting his behemoth social network and having a ruinous effect on democracy.

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When “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King asked Zuckerberg about his refusal to remove “political ads that people know are false,” he said, “What I believe is in a democracy is it’s really important that people see for themselves what politicians are saying so they can make their own judgments.” Sticking to this craven talking point, Zuckerberg added, “I don’t think a private company should be censoring politicians or news.”

’Cause, you know, racists, neo-Nazis, and their sympathizers need love, too.

Zuckerberg doesn’t care when politicians lie, or that “news” is demonstrably fake. With so much money from political ads, he’s fine with amplifying right-wing propaganda to nearly one-third of the world’s population. No wonder it’s the platform of choice for dictators and authoritarians.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg is trying to recast himself as a do-gooder who, as a young father, views the world through his kids and wants “to work to remove anything that’s going to hurt your child.” This, of course, does not include Facebook following Twitter’s lead in banning political ads which seek to further divide and ultimately, conquer our democratic and Constitutional foundations.

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It’s always worth remembering that long before the term “friended” entered our vocabulary, Zuckerberg was a Harvard undergrad accused of “breaching security, violating copyrights, and violating individual privacy,” according to a 2003 article in the Harvard Crimson. Facebook’s origin story is its precursor, Facemash, a website Zuckerberg created to compare and rate women at the university based on their looks.

Oh, and he got their photos by hacking into various on-campus websites.

Now he’s one of the most powerful men in the world. Facebook rakes in billions in advertising, and Zuckerberg isn’t inclined to do the right thing. He recently had dinner with President Trump, though he suddenly became a poster boy for privacy when King asked him what was discussed. According to King, that secret dinner, undisclosed by the White House, came as Trump “was openly discouraging Facebook from banning political ads.

Rest assured, Mr. President. Those disgusting ads are going nowhere.

Disinformation has always been a devastatingly powerful tool. It’s the fostering of erroneous and racist ideas about enslaved black people that still allows this nation’s crimes against black humanity. It’s how Hitler demonized Jews, creating rancid arguments for their extermination as necessary for Germany and the world. And this is how Trump foments lies about Mexican and Central American migrants and stokes white fears with cooked statistics about the rampant criminality of immigrants, irregardless of facts.

If Facebook won’t hold itself accountable, its users should. But they won’t — Facebook is too embedded in their lives. Even with calls to regulate the company or break it up, it continues to grow after more than a decade. People accept mendacity and misinformation in exchange for honeymoon photos, recipes, and viral videos. Zuckerberg has given them the means, and they are forging their own chains, one post, one “friend,” one like at a time.

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But hey, let’s not talk about that. Let’s hear more about Zuckerberg and Chan’s date nights and how they maintain a healthy work-life balance. The old “softie” knows what his users want, even as he takes a hard line against the democratic principles he pretends to defend.


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.