Liberal billionaire George Soros charged that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Donald Trump appear to have struck a “mutual assistance arrangement” to help the president get re-elected.
Soros’ allegation came in response to an Op-Ed written by Zuckerberg published Monday in the Financial Times in which the Facebook chief stood by his company’s decision to publish political ads while not bearing the responsibility to fact-check them.
“We believe advertising is more transparent on Facebook than television, print or other online services. We publish details about political and issue ads — including who paid for them, how much was spent, and how many people were reached — in our ads library,” Zuckerberg wrote.
“But who decides what counts as political advertising in a democracy? If a non-profit runs an ad about immigration during an election, is it political? Who should decide — private companies, or governments?” he asked.
Zuckerberg did call for further government oversight, writing that “rather than relying on individual companies to set their own standards, we’d benefit from a more democratic process. This is why we’re pushing for new legislation, and it’s why we support existing US proposals to prevent election interference like the Honest Ads Act and the Deter Act.”
Soros — who last month also accused Trump and Zuckerberg of helping each other — wrote a scathing letter to the Financial Times regarding the opinion piece, calling for the removal of Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg from the company’s leadership.
“Mark Zuckerberg should stop obfuscating the facts by piously arguing for government regulation,” the 89-year-old wrote.
“Mr. Zuckerberg appears to be engaged in some kind of mutual assistance arrangement with Donald Trump that will help him to get re-elected,” Soros continued. “Facebook does not need to wait for government regulations to stop accepting any political advertising in 2020 until after the elections on November 4.”
The leftist political activist — who contributed over $20 million to Democratic candidates and liberal groups during the 2018 election cycle — argued that if Facebook had “any doubt whether an ad is political, it should err on the side of caution and refuse to publish.”
Soros conceded Facebook is not likely to follow his counsel.
“Therefore, I repeat my proposal, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg should be removed from control of Facebook,” he wrote.
Last month, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also set her sights on Zuckerberg, characterizing his reasoning as “Trumpian” and “authoritarian” in an interview with The Atlantic.
There’s good reason to believe that Facebook is “not just going to reelect Trump, but intend[s] to reelect Trump,” Clinton said.
Today @HillaryClinton told me she sees Mark Zuckerberg’s attitude toward disinformation on Facebook as “Trumpian” and “authoritarian.”
She says reasoning with Facebook is like “negotiating with a foreign power.” https://t.co/et4fbFV7vG
— Adrienne LaFrance (@AdrienneLaF) January 25, 2020
The former secretary of state dismissed the notion that Facebook is primarily concerned about free speech in relation to political ads.
“They have, in my view, contorted themselves into making arguments about freedom of speech and censorship,” Clinton said, “which they are hanging on to because it’s in their commercial interests.”
Zuckerberg defended his company’s stance on political ads at Silicon Slopes Tech Summit 2020 in Salt Lake City late last month, The Guardian reported.
“We’re going to stand up for free expression,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate that this is such a controversial thing,” Zuckerberg added, noting that critics of his position are typically “people not at risk of being censored themselves.”
The CEO explained that he considered banning political ads because “from a business perspective the controversy is not worth the very small part of the business that they make up.”
But he contended that “when it’s not absolutely clear what to do, we should err on the side of greater expression.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook posted a record $6.88 billion profit in the fourth quarter of 2019.
According to The Guardian, the Trump campaign spent just shy of $20 million on Facebook political ad buys in all of 2019.
The next closest was Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, who spent $16.8 million.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who just entered the Democratic presidential primary in late November, has spent over $5 million of Facebook ads.
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