Lawmakers to grill Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook's plans to combat election interference – Daily Mail,

Lawmakers to grill Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook's plans to combat election interference – Daily Mail,

Mark Zuckerberg was in the congressional hot seat on Wednesday as he faced questions from lawmakers about his company’s practices, how he attempts to combat false and inflammatory information on Facebook’s platform, and what the social media giant will do to fight election interference in the 2020 contest.

Democratic Chairwoman Maxine Waters, who has been critical of Facebook’s diversity practices and its plan for a digital currency, set the tone for the multi-hour event, lighting into Zuckerberg.

She accused the billionaire CEO of thinking he was above the law and issued a threat to break up his company.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was the solo witness in a congressional hearing on his company

Zuckerberg’s reaction to Waters’ opening statement critical of him and his company

Waters outlined a series of issues she criticized the company for, including its lack of diversity and role in the national political conversation.

In her query on last week’s announcement the company would not fact-check political ads, she accused Zuckerberg of doing so to make more money off political ads for his company, arguing it will result in ‘massive voter suppression.’

Waters slammed Zuckerberg for giving ‘a platform to lie and mislead’ the American people in order to ‘allow Facebook to sell more ads – the impact of this will be a massive voter suppression effort. ‘

‘You announced a new ad policy that gives politicians a license to lie so you can earn more money off this division, I suppose,’ she said.

‘Your claim to promote freedom of speech does not ring true Mr. Zuckerberg, ‘Waters told him.

‘Perhaps you believe that you are above the law,’ she said. ‘And it appears that you are aggressively increasing the size of your company, and a willing to step on over anyone, including your competitors women, people of color, your own users, and even our democracy to get what you want. All of these problems as an outline and – given the company’s size and reach – it should be clear, while we have serious concerns about your plans to establish a global digital currency that will challenge the U.S. dollar. ‘

And she concluded with a threat:’ You have opened up a serious discussion on whether or not Facebook should be broken up. ‘

Zuckerberg, 35, smirked and whispered to his staff as Waters’ wrapped up her tirade.

Mark Zuckerberg is defending his company before House lawmakers on Wednesday

Democratic Chairwoman Maxine Waters light into Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg arrived on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to be the sole witness before the House Financial Services Committee hearing on his company’s proposed digital currency and its plans to combat election interference in the 2020 contest.

But he also was pressed about his company’s plans to combat election interference, fight online sex traffickers, anti-discrimination practices, and his proposed digital currency.

‘It’s hate speech and it’s leading to violence and death threats in my office’

Democratic Congressman Rashida Tlaib, one of the two Muslim women in Congress, asked him about anti-Muslim propaganda posted on Facebook.

‘It’s hate speech and it’s leading to violence and death threats in my office,’ she told him.

‘We’re not perfect,’ Zuckerberg told her . ‘We make a lot of mistakes.’

He pointed out more than 100 billion pieces of content are shared across Facebook daily.

‘So even if we make mistakes on a relatively small percent that’s still a lot of mistakes and in both directions – things that we take down that shouldn’t be taken down and things that we missed that we leave up, ‘he said.

‘ This is really hard stuff, ‘he added.

‘It’s a pretty dark time in our country we need to be able to play a part in reducing that violence,’ Tlaib told him in response.

Anti-Vaxx Content

And the surprising topic of anti-vaccines came up, mentioned by Republican Congressman Bill Posey of Florida in his five minutes of questioning.

Posey has been a central figure in the movement linking vaccines to autism – which has not been scientifically proven. Posey also says he supports vaccines.

He asked Zuckerberg why Facebook cracks down on anti-vaxx content. ‘You believe in giving people a voice,’ he said and went on to ask why the anti-vaxx content was targeted.

‘We do care deeply about giving people a voice and freedom of expression, ‘Zuckerberg said but went on to add:’ We also hear consistently from our community that people want to stop the spread of misinformation. ‘

Representative Rashida Tlaib told Zuckerberg anti-Muslim Facebook posts led to death threats to her office

Republican Congressman Bill Posey why Facebook cracks down on anti-vaxx content

Election Policies

Meanwhile, Waters asked Zuckerberg if Facebook would fact-check ads paid to be placed on its platform.

Facebook came under fire from Joe Biden’s campaign when it declined to take down a political ad from Donald Trump the former vice president’s camp argued was false.

Additionally, last month, the company said it exempts politicians from its third-party fact-checking process.

‘Our policy is that we do not fact check politician’s speech,’ Zuckerberg told Waters. ‘We believe that in a democracy it is important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying.’

And Republican Congressman Andy Barr of Kentucky asked about that ad policy, demanding of Zuckerberg: Will you commit that Facebook will not censor any political ad placed on your platform, or in support of President Donald Trump? ‘

‘ Congressman, my commitment on this is that, or the principle of least here, is that we believe that people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying, ‘Zuckerberg responded. ‘That doesn’t just go for for Trump. That goes for any of the candidates for any of our national offices. People need to be able to see for themselves and be able to make judgments on what the candidates are saying and their character. ‘

‘ Well I applaud you for that, ‘Barr responded. ‘And I don’t want you to be bullied by politicians to relinquish our treasured free speech under the First Amendment protected. And don’t be bullied by politicians who want to censor politically incorrect speech or your back. ‘

Later Zuckerberg was asked about his Oval Office meeting with President Trump last month.

He said there was no note taker and they did not discuss the fact-checking exemption for politicians.

Zuckerberg did not offer many details of his conversation with the president.

‘I don’t feel like it’s appropriate for me to comment in too much detail on private conversations,’ he said.

Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg’s wife, was in the room for his testimony

At one point, Zuckerberg asked for a five-minute bathroom break: ‘I’m drinking a lot of water’

And Congressman William Lacey Clay, an African American Democrat from Missouri, asked Zuckerberg how Facebook combats discrimination online.

‘It has always been against our policies for people to use any of our products and especially our ad products to discriminate,’ Zuckerberg told him.

Lighter Moments

The hearing had it tense moments – particularly when Zuckerberg appeared visibly flustered and annoyed with ability of lawmakers not to let him respond to their questions.

The time was limited – lawmakers only got five minutes to query the CEO and would often cut him off to move on to their next question.

But it also had its lighter moments.

After a particularly fiery exchange, Republican Rep. Steve Stivers asked Zuckerberg how he was doing.

‘I’m doing okay,’ he depanned in response to much laughter in the room.

And, after about three hours in, Zuckerberg asked for a five minute bathroom break.

‘I’m drinking a lot of water,’ he explained.

And Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman asked Zuckerberg: ‘How realistic was the portrayal in “The Social Network?”’

As the CEO started laughing in response, Riggleman joked that he thought a sequel was on its way out soon and wanted to get his own casting right.


Zuckerberg’s main purpose at Wednesday’s hearing was to defend his company’s new cyrptocurrency, Libra, which needs federal approval.

Waters called for a moratorium on Facebook’s development of Libra.

‘It would be beneficial if Facebook concentrates on addressing these many existing deficiencies and failures before proceeding any further on the Libra project, ‘she

Zuckerberg, however, made his pitch for the project.

‘The vision is here is to make it so people can send money to each other as easily and securely and cheaply as it is to send a text message, ‘he said.

Libra has faltered as of late amid criticism from lawmakers and regulators over fears it may aid money laundering and upend the global financial system.

Zuckerberg was quizzed by Democratic lawmaker Carolyn Maloney as to whether he would pledge no anonymous wallets on Facebook so there is no hidden illegal activity.

‘This is a huge problem in safety for Americans and a huge concern for law enforcement,’ Maloney said.

Zuckerberg pledged his cooperation.

‘Our wallet is going to have strong identity we are going to work with regulators,’ he told her. ‘You have my commitment from Facebook.’

Zuckerberg’s wife Priscilla Chan, right, sits in the audience as he testifies

Mark Zuckerberg faced questions about his company’s plans to combat election interference and child sex traffickers

That political heat Facebook has faced on Liberal has resulted in several of its key financial partners – including Mastercard, Visa, PayPal and eBay – to abandon the project.

‘Facebook will not be a part of launching the Libra payments system anywhere in the world unless all US regulators approve it. And we support Libra delaying its launch until it has fully addressed US regulatory concerns, ‘Zuckerberg said in hisprepared testimony.

In his seven-page opening statement, Zuckerberg acknowledges the criticism his company has come under on a variety of issues.

‘This has been a challenging few years for Facebook. We understand we have a lot to do to live up to people’s expectations on issues like privacy and security. We know that companies like Facebook have become a part of people’s everyday lives, and that comes with immense responsibilities and a lot of very difficult judgments. We don’t think we should be tackling these issues alone, which is why I’ve called for a more active role for governments and regulators on harmful content, protecting elections, privacy, and data portability, ‘he will say.

Zuckerberg has stepped up his outreach in the nation’s capitol, recently visiting lawmakers and the White House. He’s also been on a media blitz as he tries to win over lawmakers skeptical of his company’s digital currency plans and ability to counter social media menaces in the upcoming election.

Additionally, the company is being investigated by state attorneys general and Attorney General William Barr for anti-trust practices.

Facebook’s role in the 2020 election has already come under fire after the social media platform refused to take down a campaign ad from Donald Trump on Joe Biden that the former vice president’s campaign said was false.

Additionally, the company disclosed on Monday it had removed a network of Russian accounts targeting U.S. voters on Instagram, which Facebook owns.

Zuckerberg last appeared before Congress in April 2018 when he fielded 10 hours of questions over two days from House and Senate panels on political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook customer data to interfere in the US presidential election.

That scandal badly damaged Facebook’s image in Washington and has compounded worries among lawmakers that the social media giant cannot be trusted to launch a global digital currency to its 2.4 billion users.

While acknowledging the company’s mistakes, Zuckerberg argued Facebook can still be a force for good and that Libra, whose operations will be based in Switzerland, will help address global financial inclusion problems.

‘I understand we’re not the ideal messenger right now. I’m sure people wish it was anyone but Facebook putting this idea forward, ‘he said in his opening statement. ‘But I think it would be bad for our country and the world if companies were discouraged from taking on challenges like these.’

Mark Zuckerberg arrives on Capitol Hill Wednesday to testify

Zuckerberg will testify about Facebook’s plans to launch its cyber currency Libra

Waters previously called on Facebook to stop has its planned 2020 launch for Libra and has drafted legislation that would bar tech companies from entering financial services.

On Oct. 14, the Libra Association comprising 21 members agreed articles of association laying out how the organization will be governed, as required by Swiss law. Most decisions will require a majority vote of the group’s governing council, meaning Facebook will not be able to call the shots.

Zuckerberg reminded lawmakers Wednesday he cannot speak for Libra as a whole but can make commitments on behalf of Facebook.

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