Alex Berenson rips reporter for not asking Zuckerberg about Facebook 'squelching' free speech

Former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson pressed a reporter via Twitter for appearing to let Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg slide on questions about free speech amid the coronavirus pandemic .

NBC News' Dylan Byers, who conducted the interview with Zuckerberg, posted the article on Twitter Thursday, touting Zuckerberg's plans for transitioning workers to doing their jobs remotely.

“New: Mark Zuckerberg tells me Facebook is transitioning to permanent 'work from home' for many employees. He expects 50% of staff will work remotely in 5-10 years. ‘We are going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale,’” he reported.

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Among several tweets responding to Byers' post, Berenson asked why Zuckerberg’s company is “squelching” free speech rights. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been removing posts in recent months that they argue are spreading false information about the coronavirus pandemic.

“Great story bro. Did you ask him about the First Amendment rights he and his $650 billion company are squelching in the next 5-10 minutes? Or did that not come up?” said Berenson, who has consistently been questioning the data behind the coronavirus pandemic and the effects of broad shutdowns.

Facebook also announced last month it would clamp down on the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, saying it will warn users if they have "liked, reacted or commented" on content that has been deemed "harmful" and removed by the tech giant.

"These messages will connect people to COVID-19 myths debunked by the [World Health Organization] including ones we’ve removed from our platform for leading to imminent physical harm," Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, wrote in a blog post. "We want to connect people who may have interacted with harmful misinformation about the virus with the truth from authoritative sources in case they see or hear these claims again off of Facebook."

In a Fox News op-ed, Berenson warned that "social media giants are tightening censorship against people who protest lockdowns and raise evidence the virus may be less risky than initially thought."

He wrote that "Facebook’s stance is particularly problematic because as the largest social media network, it may gain from lockdowns, which force friends or community groups to rely on virtual gatherings instead of real-life meetings."

Berenson highlighted that last week, Facebook took "its most aggressive action yet" by removing the 380,000-member group “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine,” one of the original anti-lockdown groups. It then quickly removed a replacement group called “Stand Up Michigan.”

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Byers' interview addressed Zuckerberg's plans to shift Facebook Inc. toward a substantially remote workforce over the next decade, permanently reconfiguring the tech giant's operations around the dispersed structure that the coronavirus pandemic forced on it.

The plan, which the Facebook chief executive outlined to employees on Thursday, is one of the highest-profile examples of business leaders committing to extend the practices their companies quickly embraced to adjust to the crisis. On matters from workplace to strategy, managers are rethinking what works and shifting course, sometimes long term.

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The remote-work changes for new hires will roll out initially in the U.S. and apply only to senior engineers at first. With individual team leaders' approval, new recruits will be offered the choice to work from home, and current employees around the world with strong performance reviews will be able to apply to do so. In time, the policy will be extended to employees outside Facebook's engineering department.