On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress under familiar circumstances: He had been called upon to answer for a sketchy-sounding extension of the social media giant. And legislators had some tough questions for him.
In this particular case, Zuckerberg was in Washington, D.C. to discuss Libra, Facebook&aposs proposed cryptocurrency. Zuckerberg&aposs goal was to convince a members of the House Financial Services Committee that the same company that&aposs committed a litany of serious privacy breaches could be trusted to run digital currency too. Zuckerberg promised to wait on launching Libra until it was fully backed by U.S. regulators, but ominously warned that "If America doesn’t innovate, our financial leadership is not guaranteed,” an allusion to China&aposs rumored impending foray into state-run cryptocurrency.
In her line of questioning for Zuckerberg, representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez opened by tying the debate about the merits of Libra&aposs existence to Facebook&aposs egregious errors, self-admitted mistakes, and potential crimes. She first grilled Zuckerberg about "what year and month" he "first became aware of Cambridge Analytica", a scandal that earned the Facebook co-founder a previous congressional scolding. Zuckerberg wasn&apost sure.
But the majority of her time was committed to Facebook&aposs hands-off approach to fact-checking political ads, an issue that&aposs come under fire from the right and the left for radically differing reasons. The most telling moments of their exchange came when Ocasio-Cortez invoked Zuckerberg—and Facebook—palling around with white supremacists on separate occasions. She first brought up a recent Politico report that Zuckerberg "has been hosting informal talks and small, off-the-record dinners with conservative journalists, commentators and at least one Republican lawmaker in recent months to talk about issues like free speech and discuss partnerships."
Ocasio-Cortez cut to the chase with a little more gusto (and accuracy) than that politically neutral language, pressing Zuckerberg on his hangouts with "far-right figures, some of whom have advanced the conspiracy theory that white supremacy is a hoax." Zuckerberg couldn&apost muster a response, instead waiting out the clock until AOC—limited to five minutes—pivoted elsewhere. She wanted to squeeze in one more fastball, as seen below:
Ocasio-Cortez: Can you explain why you named The Daily Caller, a publication with well-documented ties to white supremacists, as an official fact-checker for Facebook?
Zuckerberg: Congresswoman, sure. We actually don&apost appoint the independent fact-checkers. They go through an independent organization called the Independent Fact-Checking Network that has a rigorous standard for who they allow to serve as a fact-checker.
Ocasio-Cortez: So you would say white supremacist-tied publications meet a rigorous standard for fact-checking?
Zuckerberg: Congresswoman, I would say that we&aposre not the one assessing that standard. The International Fact-Checking Network is the one setting that standard.
Zuckerberg, who accidentally employs "independent" and "international" interchangeably in citing the fact-checking network that Facebook uses, is presumably referring to the latter, which actually exists, rather than the former, which does not. He&aposs implying that the International Fact-Checking Network, which is actually overseen by Poynter, exclusively made the decision to include the Daily Caller in Facebook&aposs fact-checking efforts. It&aposs true that Poynter lists the Daily Caller as an accredited publication (which raises other questions about the group&aposs vetting process), but Facebook itself handpicks the already-accredited publications it wants to include for fact-checking. That&aposs according to the Wall Street Journal, which also reported in December 2018 that Zuckerberg himself was not an innocent bystander in this selection process:
Mere minutes earlier, Zuckerberg definitively stated that he thinks lying is bad, so one can only assume his previous involvement in adding the Daily Caller as a fact-checking entity totally slipped his mind.
Originally Appeared on GQ