Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had five minutes to question Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today and she did her best to create a gotcha moment but ultimately just came off like a snotty socialist looking to silence other people’s speech. We’ll get back to AOC in a moment but first some backstory. Earlier this month, Zuckerberg gave a speech at Georgetown University in which he said he had considered banning political ads from Facebook but decided to err on the side of free speech:
“From a business perspective the controversy is not worth the very small part of the business that they make up.”Zuckerberg said that there are issues with political ads no matter how Facebook handles the matter.
“I believe that when its not absolutely clear what to do, we should err on the side of greater expression,” Zuckerberg said.
One problem with banning political ads is that it is not clear where Facebook would have to draw the line, Zuckerberg said.
“There are many more ads about issues than there ads about elections. Do we ban ads about healthcare, immigration or women’s empowerment?” he said. “If you’re not going to ban those, does it really make sense to give everyone else a voice in political debates except for the candidates themselves?”
That all sounds pretty nuanced and rational but even before Zuckerberg’s speech, he was being accused of making a backroom deal with President Trump to allow disingenuous ads to remain on the site. Elizabeth Warren got that ball just over two weeks ago. Here’s how Vox described her unsupported allegations:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren accused Facebook on Monday of emboldening Donald Trump, even suggesting that the social media company’s leadership struck some deal with Trump behind closed doors that explains why he is allowed to promote misleading ads on its platform.
The ascendant Democratic candidate laid out her argument in a series of tweets on Monday without supplying any concrete evidence for her claim that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had bent to Trump’s wishes after the pair met in Washington two weeks ago. Warren’s implication came as Zuckerberg and Warren are increasingly sniping at one another, both in public and in leaked audio from an internal Facebook meeting earlier this summer, during which Zuckerberg referred to a potential Warren presidency as an “existential” threat to his company.
So to sum up, Zuckerberg warned that, as president, Elizabeth Warren would be a threat to the existence of Facebook (which is true). Warren responded about a week later by suggesting Zuckerberg had made a backroom deal with Trump (which isn’t true). Zuckerberg clarified that the ad policy, which hasn’t changed, is to allow for maximum free expression. Rather than having Facebook make judgments about individual ads or simply removing all political ads, others are free to judge the truth of those ads.
Now we get back to AOC who wants to mine this well-worn territory for all it’s worth.
“You announced recently that the official policy of Facebook now allows politicians to pay to spread disinformation in 2020 elections and in the future,” AOC claimed. She continued, “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?”
“No, congresswoman, you couldn’t,” Zuckerberg replied. He explained that threats of imminent violence or attempts at voter suppression would be removed from the site. AOC then came up with another hypothetical. Here’s the transcript from Vox:
Ocasio-Cortez: 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.
Zuckerberg: Congresswoman, I don’t know the answer to that off the top of my head, I think probably.
Ocasio-Cortez: You don’t know if I’ll be able to do that.
Zuckerberg: I think probably.
Ocasio-Cortez: Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?
Zuckerberg: Well, Congresswoman, I think lying is bad, and I think if you were to run an ad that had a lie in it, that would be bad. That’s different from it being … in our position, the right thing to do to prevent your constituents or people in an election from seeing that you had lied.
She’s doing her best to make this sound outrageous and complex but it really isn’t very difficult to understand. “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 are saying and judge their character for themselves,” Zuckerberg said.
So for instance, if some congresswoman wants to compare American border detention facilities to Nazi concentration camps on social media, she can do that. The result will be a lot of people who are experts telling her she shouldn’t make that comparison. But the point is, Facebook (or Twitter) is not going to remove her speech even if it’s incendiary and misleading.
Speaking of false claims, near the end of this clip AOC asks this leading question: “In your ongoing dinner parties with far-right figures, some of who advance the conspiracy theory that white supremacy is a joke, did you discuss so-called media bias against conservatives?” According to Townhall’s Guy Benson who was at one of those dinners, no such discussion took place.
Can confirm: White supremacy was not joked about, made light of, espoused, or even mentioned at the “far right” / Zuckerberg dinner party I attended. What a performance she put on. https://t.co/zqKqh7YqtE
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) October 23, 2019
Should Twitter remove all copies of this video of AOC on the grounds that it contains false statements? I would say no, but I wonder if AOC sees how this policy she’s suggesting could quickly be turned against her?
"So, you won't take down lies or you will take down lies? I think that's just a pretty simple yes or no."
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 23, 2019