U.S. Markets closed

'Shark Tank' judge Barbara Corcoran: Facebook is the ‘last bastion of free speech’

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

Though critics say Facebook (FB) is taking a dangerously hands-off approach to regulating the content on its platform, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and co. have at least one vocal advocate: Barbara Corcoran.

“I, for one, admire the man [Mark Zuckerberg] for sticking to his guns. I think that Facebook is the last bastion of free speech we have. The other guys have folded, fine, that’s their option, but he’s sticking firm and I love it,” the real estate mogul and “Shark Tank” star said on Yahoo Finance on Thursday.

The comments come as Facebook continues to refuse to fact-check political ads. On Thursday, Facebook’s director of product management Rob Leathern said in a blog post that the social network was choosing to “expand transparency and give more controls” to users with political ads rather than blocking completely them as Twitter and Google have done.

“The feature allows us to turn off those political ads or at least dim them down so low that they don’t bother you,” Corcoran told Yahoo Finance’s “YFi PM.” “So we still have control over what we want to see. I don’t think it’s anyone’s job, especially Facebook’s job, to dictate what we should see and what we shouldn’t see.” 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 04: Barbara Corcoran attends Sony Pictures Television's Emmy FYC Event 2019 'Toast to the Arts' on May 04, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Sony Pictures Television)

‘What’s fueling this heated argument right now’

In her interview with Yahoo Finance’s show “YFi PM,” Corcoran expressed her concern with tech companies implementing more heavy-handed policies with regards to content regulation. 

“They would almost be acting as our new data driven federal government today. Why? Why should they even have that right, never mind be pushed to do it? It’s crazy. It should be the government’s right to say what can happen to our people and what can’t, not Facebook’s.”

She also posited that the argument for more content regulation is merely a political one — for those who don’t want a repeat of the 2016 election. Facebook vice president Andrew Bosworth acknowledged this week that the platform’s ad tools helped Donald Trump win and may even help reelect him. 

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 03: (L-R) Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg attend the 2020 Breakthrough Prize Red Carpet at NASA Ames Research Center on November 03, 2019 in Mountain View, California. (Photo by Ian Tuttle/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize )

“What’s fueling this fevered argument right now is everyone believes Facebook is going to help re-elect Donald Trump. And the people who don’t want [that] want to change it fiercely right now and I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think [Zuckerberg’s] going to stick with his guns, his rightful guns, and I’m all for it,” Corcoran said.

The company is reiterating the stance Zuckerberg laid out at Georgetown in October, framing it as a defense of “free expression.” There is an additional update — users will soon be able to dictate how frequently they see these very ads on Facebook and Instagram. 

“Seeing fewer political and social issue ads is a common request we hear from people. That’s why we plan to add a new control that will allow people to see fewer political and social issue ads on Facebook and Instagram. This feature builds on other controls in Ad Preferences we’ve released in the past, like allowing people to see fewer ads about certain topics or remove interests,” Leathern explained. 

Leathern did acknowledge the cacophony of critics, who say this just perpetuates misinformation and blatant lies on the platform. 

“We recognize this is an issue that has provoked much public discussion — including much criticism of Facebook’s position. We are not deaf to that and will continue to work with regulators and policy makers in our ongoing efforts to help protect elections,” he wrote.

Zuckerberg’s outspoken critics far outnumber supporters like Corcoran. At the Golden Globes on Sunday, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen made a joke at the Facebook founder’s expense. 

Wall Street, for its part, has shrugged off this political — and existential — debate. Shares of Facebook closed 1.4% higher on Thursday and are up 51% over the last 12 months. 

Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s west coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

Read more: