Sen. Ted Cruz grilled Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg over whether his social media platform was a neutral public forum, prompting an irritated Zuckerberg to admit that Silicon Valley is an “extremely left-leaning place.”
In what some are describing as “the most explosive” part of Zuckerberg’s otherwise uneventful testimony before Congress on Tuesday, the Texas senator focused on the widely held belief that Facebook censors conservatives, much to the displeasure of the billionaire CEO.
“There are a great many Americans who I would say are deeply concerned that Facebook and other tech companies are engaged in a pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship,” Cruz said.
Zuckerber was quick to say “our goal is certainly not to engage in political speech.”
In what Time called “Cruz’s inquisition,” the Republican lawmaker drew attention to reports of censorship.
“There have been numerous instances with Facebook in May of 2016, Gizmodo reported that Facebook had purposely and routinely suppressed conservative stories from trending news,” he said. “Including stories about CPAC, including stories about Mitt Romney, including stories about the Lois Lerner IRS scandal, including stories about Glenn Beck.”
Cruz added that Facebook “shut down the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day page, has blocked a post of a Fox News reporter, has blocked over two dozen Catholic pages, and most recently blocked Trump supporters Diamond and Silk’s page, with 1.2 million Facebook followers, after determining their content and brand were, quote, ‘unsafe to the community.'”
“Senator, let me say a few things about this,” Zuckerberg replied. “First, I understand where that concern is coming from because Facebook and the tech industry are located in the Silicon Valley which is an extremely left-leaning place.”
He went on to say Facebook tries to ensure “that we don’t have any bias in the work that we do,” but Cruz left Zuckerberg frustrated with a quick follow up that proved to be the exchange of the day.
“Let me ask this question: Are you aware of any ad or page that has been taken down from Planned Parenthood?” Cruz interjected.
“How about MoveOn.org?” he continued, as Zuckerberg began stammering. “How about any Democratic candidate for office?”
Cruz noted Facebook has 15,000 to 20,000 people working on security and content review, asking Zuckerberg if he was aware of the political orientations of the staff.
“No, Senator, we do not generally ask people about their political orientation when they are joining the company,” the CEO replied.
Cruz quickly pivoted to the firing of Palmer Luckey, the controversial co-founder of the Facebook-aquired company Oculus VR, with Zuckerberg opting not to comment, other than to say “it was not because of a political view.”
The question left some wondering exactly what Cruz was angling at — see political contributions.
I wonder why Ted Cruz specifically asked Mark Zuckerberg about why Palmer Luckey was fired from Facebook… pic.twitter.com/VAvZuh03Uz
— Ryan Mac (@RMac18) April 10, 2018
In the end, Zuckerberg said he was “proud of the discourse and the different ideas that people can share” on Facebook.
“What I can say is I’m very committed to making sure Facebook is a platform for all ideas,” he added. “That is a very important founding principle of what I do.”
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