Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had some pointed questions for Mark Zuckerberg Tuesday as the Facebook CEO testified before Congress.
As for answers, Zuckerberg was either unwilling or unable to provide them.
“Does Facebook consider itself to be a neutral public forum?” Cruz asked.
“Senator, we consider ourselves to be a platform for all ideas,” Zuckerberg said.
Not satisfied with that non-answer, Cruz said, “Let me ask the question again — Does Facebook consider itself to be a neutral public forum? Because representatives from your company have given conflicting answers on this. Are you a First Amendment speaker expressing your views or a neutral public forum allowing everyone to speak?”
Zuckerberg again provided a non-answer to Cruz’s question.
“Senator, here’s how we think about this,” Zuckerberg said. “I don’t believe that, uh … there is certain content that we clearly do not allow — hate speech, terrorist content, nudity, anything that makes people feel unsafe in the community. From that perspective, that’s why we generally try to refer to what we do as a platform of all ideas.”
— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) April 10, 2018
Cruz hoped the third time would be the charm.
“Let me try just again because the time is constrained. It’s just a simple question: The predicate for Section 230 immunity under the (Common Decency Act) is that you are a neutral public forum. Do you consider yourself a neutral public forum or are you engaged in political speech, which is your right under the First Amendment?”
Zuckerberg again did his best not to answer Cruz directly.
“Well senator, our goal is not to engage in political speech,” Zuckerberg said. “I’m not that familiar with the specific legal language of the law that you speak to, so I would need to follow up with you on that.”
It seems improbable that the CEO of the world’s largest social media platform would be “not that familiar” with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, since it’s probably emblazoned in huge letters in the offices of Facebook’s attorneys.
Section 230 says, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
In other words, just because a Facebook user says something defamatory or publishes something else of an illegal nature on the site, Facebook or any other online platform can’t be held liable — unless it’s been notified of content that is illegal — if it’s nothing more than the “neutral” provider of the platform.
Back to Cruz’s questioning, the senator said many Americans are “deeply concerned” about a “pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship” from Facebook — from the suppression of conservative news stories to the closure of some right-leaning Facebook pages.
“Do you agree with that assessment?” Cruz said of Facebook’s bias.
Zuckerberg admitted that possible bias in his company was a “fair concern,” especially since “Facebook and tech industry is located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely left-leaning place.”
Cruz then asked if Facebook has ever taken down any pages from Planned Parenthood, a Democratic candidate, or other left-leaning organizations. He also asked if the company asks its moderators about their political beliefs when hiring.
Zuckerberg said he wasn’t sure about any steps taken against left-leaning organizations. He denied asking about the political beliefs of new hires, and he claimed he did not know the political orientation of any of the 20,000-plus employees on its content review team.
Donald Trump Jr. used Twitter to applaud Cruz for asking about Facebook’s political bias.
Wow. Credit where credit is due, at least someone finally acknowledges the left wing bias at these social platforms. Now, the real questions is will they actually do anything about it? https://t.co/BjbxC9vqaN
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) April 10, 2018
Cruz had a little more than five minutes to grill Zuckerberg, and it was some of the most enlightening five minutes of the entire afternoon.
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