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AOC Grills Facebook’s Zuckerberg on Lies in Political Ads

Zuckerberg says that politicians should be allowed to lie on Facebook.

This week, as Mark Zuckerberg says that politicians should be allowed to lie on Facebook, the social media giant’s CEO was grilled for more than five hours by lawmakers on Capitol Hill on the company’s policy of allowing politicians to lie in political advertisements, as well as its role in facilitating election interference and housing discrimination. We play highlights from New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ohio Congressmember Joyce Beatty, who asked Zuckerberg about Facebook’s record on civil rights, which she called “appalling and disgusting.” Beatty said the company “should have known better” and might have if “you had real diversity and inclusion on your team.”


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

As Facebook said this week, it will not fact-check political ads or hold politicians to its usual content standards. The social media giant’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by lawmakers over its policy of allowing politicians to lie in political ads. Zuckerberg was called to Capitol Hill Wednesday to testify about Facebook’s plans to launch a cryptocurrency called Libra that would reshape the world’s financial system. Members of the House Financial Services Committee, many of them women, blasted him with questions for more than five hours. Today we bring you highlights of the hearing, which was chaired by California Congressmember Maxine Waters. In a minute, you’ll hear from Ohio Congressmember Joyce Beatty who asked Zuckerberg about Facebook’s record on civil rights. But we begin with New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioning Mark Zuckerberg.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: It is good to see you, Mr. Zuckerberg. I think you of all people can appreciate using a person’s past behavior in order to determine, predict or make decisions about future behavior. And in order for us to make decisions about Libra, I think we need to kind of dig into your past behavior and Facebook’s past behavior with respect to our democracy. Mr. Zuckerberg, what year and month did you personally first become aware of Cambridge Analytica?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: I’m not sure of the exact time, but it was probably around the time when it became public. I think it was around March of 2018. I could be wrong, though.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: Mmhmm. When did Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg become aware of Cambridge Analytica?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: I don’t know off the top of my head.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: You don’t know. Did anyone on your leadership team know about Cambridge Analytica prior to the initial report by The Guardian on December 11th, 2015?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I believe so, and that some folks were tracking it internally. I’m actually, as you are asking this, I do think I was aware of Cambridge Analytica as an entity earlier. I just—I don’t know if I was tracking how they were using Facebook specifically.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: When was the issue discussed with your board member Peter Thiel?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I don’t know that offhand.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: You don’t know. This was the largest data scandal with respect to your company that had catastrophic impacts on the 2016 election. You don’t—you don’t know?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Well, Congresswoman, I’m sure we discussed it after it—after we were aware of what happened.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: OK. You announced recently that the official policy of Facebook now allows politicians to pay to spread disinformation in 2020 elections and in the future. So I just want to know how far I can push this in the next year. Under your policy, using census data as well, could I pay to target predominantly black ZIP codes and advertise them the incorrect election date?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: No, congresswoman, you couldn’t. We have— even for these policies around the newsworthiness of content that politicians say and the general principle that I believe that [inaudible]

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: But you said you’re not going to fact-check my ads.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: We have — if anyone, including a politician, is saying things that can cause— that is calling for violence or could risk imminent physical harm or voter or census suppression when we roll out the census suppression policy, we will take that content down.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: So you will — there is some threshold where you will fact-check political advertisements. Is that what you’re telling me?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Well, congresswoman, yes, for specific things like that, where there is imminent risk of harm, but also —

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: Could I run ads targeting Republicans in primaries saying that they voted for the Green New Deal?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Sorry, I— can you repeat that?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: Would I be able to run advertisements on Facebook targeting Republicans in primaries saying that they voted for the Green New Deal? I mean, if you’re not fact-checking political advertisements, I’m just trying to understand the bounds here. What’s fair game.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I don’t know the answer to that off the top of my head. I think probably?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: So you don’t know if I’ll be able to do that.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: I think probably.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Well, congresswoman, I think lying is bad and I think if you were to run an ad that had a lie, that would be bad. That’s different from it being— from — in our position, the right thing to do to prevent your constituents or people in an election from seeing that you had lied.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: So we can — so you won’t take down lies or you will take down lies? I think this is just a pretty simple yes or no.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman —

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: Im not talking about spin. I’m talking about actual disinformation.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Yes. In most cases, in a democracy, I believe that people should be able to see for themselves what politicians that they may or may not vote for saying —

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: So you won’t take them down.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: — and judge their character for themselves.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: So you won’t take — you may flag that it’s wrong, but you won’t take it down.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, it depends on the context that it shows up. Organic post, ads — the treatment is a little bit different.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: One question. One more question. In your ongoing dinner parties with far-right figures, some of whom advance the conspiracy theory that white supremacy is a hoax, did you discuss so-called social media bias against conservatives and do you believe there is a bias?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, sorry, I don’t remember everything that was in the question.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: That’s all right; I’ll move on. Can you explain why you’ve named The Daily Caller, a publication well documented with ties to white supremacists, as an official fact-checker for Facebook?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, sure. We actually don’t appoint the independent fact checkers. They go through an independent organization called the Independent Fact-Checking Network that has a rigorous standard for who they allow to serve as a fact-checker.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: So you would say that white supremacist-tied publications meet a rigorous standard for fact-checking? [pause] Thank you.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I would say that we’re not the one assessing that standard. The International Fact-Checking Network is the one who is setting that standard.

REP. MAXINE WATERS: The gentlewoman from Ohio, Mrs. Beatty, who is also the chair for the Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion.

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: Thank you, Chairwoman Waters. Mr. Zuckerberg, I want to get through a number of questions — diverse asset management, fair housing issues, diversity and inclusion, and privacy and security. Diversity and inclusion is very important to me and it’s personal for me. I have been here before with Facebook about the lack of diversity and inclusion. I have discussed this repeatedly with your company over the past years. I am vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Black Caucus for the record has had multiple meetings with your company. And here we are again. Let me get into asset management. Certainly, that’s a large industry, as we know — something like a $70 trillion industry. Facebook has more than $46 billion on record in cash or cash equivalents and marketable securities. Are any of these funds managed by diverse-owned companies? Yes or no? Yes or no?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman —


MARK ZUCKERBERG: I don’t believe —

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: So I take that as a no. You have a stable of big law firms that work on your legal cases around the country. How many diverse-owned or women-owned law firms are contracted by Facebook? Number. Just give me a number or a range.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I don’t know offhand.

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: I take that as “I don’t know.” How many women or minority partners work on these cases?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I don’t know the answer to that question off the top of my head, but I’m happy to get back to you on —

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: Did you review the packet — my time. Did you review the packet that went out in notification to you and your team, about what was included today? And diverse asset management was in it. Did you read that?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I —

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: There’s a piece of legislation that I’m working on that was in the packet. Did you or your team review it? I mean, everybody has talked about your scholarly resume. Did you review the packet that was sent to you from this committee? Obviously that’s a no. Let me go to something you introduced. You introduced Laura Murphy.

So you know who Laura Murphy is because you said her name, right?


REP. JOYCE BEATTY: OK, so you hired her as a consultant. And in your opening statement, you talked a lot about civil rights. I think we should probably phrase it a little differently — that you work with civil rights work is because it’s a result of the number of lawsuits that you have had. NAACP. Even Secretary Ben Carson filed a fair housing lawsuit against you for violations. So let me ask you this. Do you know what redlining is?


REP. JOYCE BEATTY: OK. Then you should have known better. And maybe if you had real diversity or inclusion on your team, somebody in that room would have said what you were doing when you looked at what you were doing in the housing, how you were redlining or using ZIP Codes to eliminate people from getting information. Now, have you read the report that Laura Murphy sent to you?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I —

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: You’ve talked a lot about diversity and you introduced her name, about this great study and her work. Have you read it? Do you know what the recommendations were? Do you know when she issued the report? Yes or no?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: I’ve seen the report.

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: OK, tell me what the top three things were. Because I have it right here. What were the top three things in her report? Somebody talked about lying in this committee. I’m only saying.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Well, one of them was around housing ads, which we’ve talked about. The other was around setting up a Civil Rights Task Force.

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: And who is on the Civil Rights Task Force?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Sheryl Sandberg is the person who — she’s the —

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: What civil right — OK, we know Sheryl’s not really civil rights, so I’m trying to help you here.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: [inaudible]

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: She’s your COO, and I don’t think there’s anythingÑand I know Sheryl well — about civil rights in her background. So come better than that for me, if we’re going to talk civil rights.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: It’s an internal task force for the company.

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: Do you know who the firm that you employ for civil rights is?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I don’t off the top of my —

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: How could you not know, when you have employed the most historical, the largest civil rights firm to deal with issues that are major? And this is what’s so frustrating to me. It’s almost like you think this is a joke when you have ruined the lives of many people, discriminated against them. Do you know what percentage of African Americans are on Facebook, in comparison to majority folks? Do you know what the percentages are?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: People using the Facebook —?

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: Yes. Do you know what the percentages are for African Americans?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: I don’t, because we don’t collect the races of people —

REP. JOYCE BEATTY: Well, it came out in a report and in the Pew Research Center that was sent to you. So maybe you just don’t read a lot of things that deal with civil rights or African Americans. I have a lot of questions I’m going to send to you that I’m not going to be able to get through, and I would like an answer, because this is appalling and disgusting to me.

AMY GOODMAN: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg being grilled by Ohio Congressmember Joyce Beatty and New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. When we come back, Congressmembers Rashida Tlaib and Katie Porter question Zuckerberg. In 30 seconds.

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