Facebook Must Cease its Legal Intimidation of ‘Doomsday Machine’ TV Producers
PEN America says that Facebook’s threats are intended to silence legitimate artistic expression and public debate
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) — Facebook’s legal team has sent a warning letter to Anonymous Content, the production company developing the upcoming TV series Doomsday Machine based on the book An Ugly Truth by journalists Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel. The letter threatens that Facebook will “take all appropriate legal action” in response to any “false statements, characterizations, and implications” or lack of “appropriate nuance and context” in the as yet unproduced show. Matt Bailey, PEN America’s digital freedom program director, said the following:
“Facebook is attempting to bully and preemptively censor any unflattering portrayal of itself on screen. Facebook hasn’t presented any evidence to rebut Kang and Frenkel’s reporting, which it impugns here, and the ‘appropriate nuance and context’ demanded in the letter are not legal standards. Facebook purports to prioritize voice and free expression when it suits its interests, but turns its back on those values when writers and creators dare to turn their lenses in the company’s direction. Ultimately, this letter is intended to intimidate and chill a creative project because Facebook and its attorneys know that they have no better recourse. Facebook must withdraw its letter and accept the reality that being a trillion-dollar company with billions of users comes with a certain amount of public scrutiny. That is how democracy and free expression, which Facebook claims to value, work.”
The series in question is based on the best selling nonfiction book of the same name by The New York Times journalists Kang and Frenkel, which presents a rigorously reported account of Facebook’s internal dynamics from 2016 to 2020. Kang and Frenkel cite more than 1,000 hours of interviews with more than 400 people as source material for their reporting in it. PEN America president Ayad Akhtar is the creator and co-producer of the television adaptation; he was not involved in developing this statement.
As PEN America’s ongoing series of statements and other publications document, Facebook continues to attempt to suppress criticism of the company and avoid accountability for its outsized impact on free expression more broadly.