Aaron Sorkin reveals how Facebook tried to change 'The Social Network'

Gregory Wakeman
Writer Aaron Sorkin poses for photographers at the closing night premiere of the film "Steve Jobs" at the BFI London Film Festival October 18, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall

The Social Network’s Oscar winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has written a scathing op-ed piece on the film’s leading character Mark Zuckerberg, who is the founder and inventor of Facebook.

Zuckerberg has been roundly criticised for his repeated defense of the social media site’s free speech policy. This provoked Sorkin into writing a piece for the New York Times that also attacked Zuckerberg’s stance, with the writer insisting, “Facebook isn’t defending free speech, it’s assaulting truth.”

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At the same time as taking aim at Zuckerberg, Sorkin also revealed some of the ways that the website wanted to alter his 2010 drama.

"Even after the screenplay for The Social Network satisfied the standards of Sony’s legal department, we sent the script — as promised over a handshake — to a group of senior lieutenants at your company and invited them to give notes,” wrote Sorkin, who then revealed that he “was asked if [he] would change the name of Harvard University to something else and if Facebook had to be called Facebook.”

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

During the piece, Sorkin also reveals that after a screening of The Social Network Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg stood up and asked, “How could you do this to a kid?” This puzzled Sorkin greatly as Zuckerberg was actually 26 at the time.

Zuckerberg has since taken to Facebook to post his own response to Sorkin’s New York Times piece, using a quote from The American President, which Sorkin wrote, to underline his point.

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“America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say: You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”

“You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free."