In scathing remarks made after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn said that Zuckerberg’s remarks constituted a de facto admission that Facebook censors content from conservative sources.
Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, made the remarks on the Breitbart News Tonight radio program on Thursday. Saying that the House “did a little bit of a deeper dive on the issues of privacy and censorship than our colleagues over in the Senate,” she said what they found indicated that regulation may be necessary.
When asked about a decline in traffic for conservative news outlets touched off by algorithm changes at Facebook, Blackburn noted that “at one point, (Zuckerberg) made a comment that Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company.
“So I took that quote from him as meaning that he sees himself as more than a normal company,” Blackburn said. “So let’s start with that premise. I asked him if he was subjectively manipulating his algorithms in order to prioritize content or to censor free speech, and he wanted to push the question off: ‘Well, you know, we have to manipulate our algorithms for things like terrorism.’
“And I cut him off, and I said, ‘I got to tell you. Diamond and Silk is not terrorism. That is not terrorism,'” Blackburn said, referring to the viral Trump supporters whose content’s reach was limited because, according to the company, they “came to the conclusion that your content and your brand has been determined unsafe to the community.”
Blackburn said that the Facebook CEO “made the point that I was wanting to make — that they are subjective in how they manipulate these algorithms.
“Then he referenced that they have 15 to 20 thousand content managers who look at content, and he admitted that Silicon Valley is a liberal place and people bring their bias to work with them even though he said he does not want them to exercise that bias in their jobs. We all know that they do.”
Blackburn noted that they were a bit more than just a neutral platform for discussion.
“I just found it interesting that he tried to always say, ‘We’re just here to connect people,'” Blackburn said.
“Well, they do a lot more than connect people, but he got off into some of the other businesses that they do. The broadband expansion that they’re doing. They’re even trying to do a plane that will be used as a connector, if you will, for people. There are so many other areas they are working in, so it is simplistic to say they are simply a platform for people to connect because they are an enormous advertising company.”
Blackburn also called for regulation in the area of privacy.
“This is why we need to have protections for users who are using this site — because it (has) a tremendous amount of power, and it is why there needs to be statutes that will guard the privacy and (enact) laws so that you retain the right to protect your virtual you, you and your presence online, because they make a boatload of money selling the information about you to people that you do not know.”
However, she noted that Facebook’s invitation for Congress to regulate them may not be as innocent as one might think.
“I will caution one thing,” Blackburn said in closing. “Sometimes, when a company becomes very large, they will say they would like to have federal regulation. They do that because federal regulation is expensive and costly, and new-start competitors can’t compete with that. So you eliminate competition.
“This is why we need a very simple privacy standard and one set of rules and one regulator, and that’s it.”
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