Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, during a wide ranging interview with Fox News host Dana Perino on Friday, doubled down on his recent argument the company is better served by taking a hands-off approach to political ads. Zuckerberg also weighed in on the perception major tech companies carry a strong liberal bias.
“Do you believe that there is a bias against conservatives in Silicon Valley?” Perino asked midway through the interview.
Zuckerberg said the answer “depends.” Conservative media, he pointed out, typically performs well on Facebook and other social platforms. On the other hand, he said “California is an overwhelmingly left-leaning place,” where about 90% of political donations in Silicon Valley go towards Democratic candidates.
“I understand why people would ask the question of ‘are my ideas getting a fair shake?'” Zuckerberg said. “And all that I can say on this is, this is something I care about. I want to make sure we can be a platform for all ideas. I think that giving everyone a voice is important and that’s how we make progress.”
In recent years, Facebook has been criticized by both pundits on the left and the right over who and what it allows on its platform. In May, Facebook banned several prominent right-wing commentators, including Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos, as well as Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The company pointed to a vague policy against “dangerous individuals and organizations” as the reason for its purge. Weeks later, The White House rolled out a tool for reporting “political bias” on social media.
“Social media platforms should advance Free speech. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear “violations” of user policies,” read the tool’s welcome message.
Earlier this month, Zuckerberg was criticized by some on the left after Politico reported he’d had several off-the-record meetings with conservative commentators this year. In response, Zuckerberg said these dinners were “part of learning” from people with “a wide range of viewpoints.”
On Thursday — one day after giving a speech on the topic at Georgetown University — Zuckerberg reiterated his belief Facebook should take a laissez-faire stance on policing its platform, including whether politicians lie in political ads.
“My belief is that, in a democracy, I don’t think that we want private companies censoring politicians and the news,” Zuckerberg told Perino. “I genuinely believe as a principle, people should decide what is credible and what they want to believe and who they want to vote for.”
Zuckerberg’s comments come after Facebook has been criticized in recent weeks by 2020 presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, who has argued the company should not run political ads with false claims. To reinforce her point, Warren intentionally lied in a Facebook ad last week. It was the latest run-in between Facebook and Warren, who has repeatedly called for the U.S. government to break up the company and other major tech firms.
Overall, Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users from harm, Zuckerberg said, and he boasted the company’s security budget now exceeds the $5.1 billion it made in 2012, its first year as a public company. He added this can be accomplished “in a way that still protects freedom of expression.”
He continued: “I think it’s our responsibility to address the issues, but also push back on broadening the definition of what people consider dangerous online, beyond what is absolutely necessary.”
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