While other senators on today’s committee on Facebook panicked about “hate speech” and “fake news,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz, alone, grilled Zuckerberg on an issue that matters to voters: censorship of dissident voices and political bias at Facebook.
Cruz raised a number of issues during his questioning, including the recent censorship of Diamond & Silk on Facebook, the controversial firing of Oculus VR founder Palmer Lucky, and the question of Facebook’s legal status as a neutral public forum.
Sen. Cruz started by asking if Facebook considers itself to be a “neutral public forum.” This was third on Breitbart News’ list of recommended questions published earlier today, and Cruz has used the question to put social media companies on the spot before.
Zuckerberg avoided giving Cruz a direct yes-or-no answer, despite the Senator asking numerous times.
“We consider ourselves to be a platform for all ideas” said Zuckerberg.
“Are you a First Amendment speaker expressing your views, or are you a neutral public forum allowing everyone to speak?” pressed Cruz.
Zuckerberg went on to list some of the things that are banned from the platform, including “hate speech, terrorist content, nudity” and “anything that makes people feel unsafe in the community.”
Accusing Facebook of giving “conflicting answers” on whether they are a neutral public forum, Cruz went on to outline voters’ concerns about political censorship.
“There are a great many Americans who I think are deeply concerned that Facebook and other tech companies are engaged in a pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship.”
Cruz went on to cite the trending news scandal of 2016, in which it was reported that Facebook “routinely suppressed” conservative stories from its Trending News feature.
“In addition to that, Facebook has initially shut down the ‘Chick-fil-A appreciation day page,’ has blocked the post of a Fox News reporter, has blocked over two dozen Catholic pages, and most recently has blocked the Trump supporters Diamond & Silk’s page – with 1.2 million Facebook followers – after determining that their content and brand were ‘unsafe for the community’.”
In response, Zuckerberg said concerns over political bias were “fair,” and conceded that Silicon Valley is an “extremely left-leaning place.”
Zuckerberg said that he aimed to “root [bias] out at the company” and make sure that “we don’t have any bias in the work that we do.”
Pressed by Cruz, Zuckerberg also conceded that he did not know the political orientation of the “15-20,000 people” who work on content review at Facebook.
Cruz also raised the issue of the firing Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR which was later bought by Facebook. Luckey was fired following a media witch-hunt, after he was revealed to be one of Silicon Valley’s few Trump supporters in 2016. Zuckerberg told Cruz that his firing was “not because of a political view” and that the company does not make firing decisions based on what candidates employees supported.