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Ocasio-Cortez gets Zuckerberg to admit Facebook is fine with lies in political ads

Democratic congresswomen got Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to admit his service will enable massive political lying in the future.

By Oliver Willis - October 24, 2019
Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg leads one of the most powerful companies in the world, but he repeatedly faltered when facing questions from Democrats in Congress on Wednesday.

Zuckerberg appeared before the House Financial Services Committee to discuss his company’s proposed digital currency, Libra, but he faced a host of questions about the company’s decision to allow political advertising with outright lies to circulate on the service.

Earlier in the month, Facebook refused to remove an ad from Donald Trump’s campaign with blatant falsehoods about Vice President Joe Biden.

“You announced a new ad policy that gives politicians a license to lie so you can earn more money off this division, I suppose,” noted committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA) at the beginning of Wednesday’s hearing.

“Political speech is some of the most scrutinized speech already in the world,” Zuckerberg said, suggesting it is therefore unnecessary for Facebook to scrutinize political ads.

Under subsequent questioning, Zuckerberg said Facebook does fact-check political content circulated to millions of users on its platform.

“Could I run ads targeting Republicans in primaries saying that they voted for the Green New Deal?” asked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

“I don’t know the answer to that off the top of my head,” Zuckerberg replied.

“Do you see a potential problem here? With a complete lack of fact checking on political advertisements?” asked Ocasio-Cortez.

“Well, congresswoman, I think lying is bad,” Zuckerberg said. “And I think if you were to run an ad that had a lie, that would be bad.”

Ocasio-Cortez pressed him on whether the company would take down political advertising with outright lies. Zuckerberg answered that people “should see for themselves” what politicians are saying in their ads.

“So you won’t take them down — you might flag that it’s wrong, but you won’t take it down,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

Zuckerberg was also confronted on Facebook’s use of a fact-checking service that includes the conservative Daily Caller, which has frequently published the work of white supremacists.

“Can you explain why you’ve named the Daily Caller, a publication with well-documented ties to white supremacists, as an official fact checker for Facebook?” asked Ocasio-Cortez.

Zuckerberg avoided the question by replying that Facebook relies on the Independent Fact Checking Network to vet content, but he did not explain why the Daily Caller had been given such an important role in the process.

“So you would say that white supremacist-tied publications meet a rigorous standard for fact-checking?” the congresswoman asked.

“Congresswoman, I would say that we’re not the one assessing that standard,” Zuckerberg answered.

Facebook was at the center of a massive disinformation campaign during the 2016 election in America, along with the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom. Under questioning from Democrats, Zuckerberg confirmed that disinformation would continue to flow.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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