completely befuddled. pic.twitter.com/n0RjyZZvQ1
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) October 23, 2019
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) elicited testimony from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday that appeared to expose contradictions, disrupt, discredit, and otherwise confuse and bewilder the social media giant on various topics.
At one point during the brief question-and-answer session, Ocasio-Cortez asked Zuckerberg about whether he discussed white supremacy during his “ongoing dinner parties with far-right figures.” Zuckerberg paused and said he didn’t really understand the question.
Ocasio-Cortez agreed to move on and asked why Facebook had “named the Daily Caller–a publication well-documented with ties to white supremacists–as an official fact-checker for Facebook?”
“Congresswoman, sure. We actually don’t 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 as a fact-checker.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s voice grew audibly askance as she slowly said:
So, you would say that white supremacist-tied publications meet a rigorous standard for fact-checking?
A mute Zuckerberg then turned to directly face the camera for several seconds.
Ocasio-Cortez replied, “Thank you.” Zuckerberg then repeated his answer.
Later on, the issue of lies and misinformation being spread via Facebook ads came up.
“Could I pay to target predominantly black zip codes and advertise them the incorrect election date?” Ocasio-Cortez asked.
“No, Congresswoman, you couldn’t.” Zuckerberg replied before attempting to elaborate. “We have–even for these policies around the newsworthiness of content and the general principle–”
Ocasio-Cortez then interjected to remind Zuckerberg he previously said Facebook “was not going to fact-check” political ads.
“If anyone, including a politician, is saying things that could cause–is calling for violence–or could risk imminent physical harm or voter or sense of suppression, when we roll out the sense of suppression policy, we will take that content down,” an occasionally stuttering Zuckerberg replied.
Ocasio-Cortez immediately noted the apparent contradiction: “So, there is some threshold where you will fact-check political advertisements, is that what you’re telling me?”
“Yes, for specific things like that,” Zuckerberg admitted.
The New York-based socialist then offered a hypothetical situation wherein leftists like herself might lie to paint GOP members of Congress as supportive of her trademark environmental policy.
“Could I run ads targeting Republicans in primaries saying that they voted for the Green New Deal?” Ocasio-Cortez inquired.
“Sorry, I, I–could you repeat that?” Zuckerberg asked.
“Would I be able to run advertisements on Facebook targeting Republicans in primaries saying that they voted for the Green New Deal?” she repeated. “I mean, if you’re not fact-checking political advertisements, I’m just trying to understand the bounds here–what’s fair game.”
“Congresswoman, I don’t know the answer to that off the top of my head. I think probably,” Zuckerberg said.
Ocasio-Cortez taunted: “So, you don’t know if I’d be able to do that.”
“I think probably,” Zuckerberg confirmed.
“Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?” she asked.
Zuckerberg responded that citizens should decide for themselves:
Well, Congresswoman, I think lying is bad. And I think if you were to run an ad that had a lie that would be bad. That’s different from it being–in our position–the right thing to do to prevent your constituents or people in an election from seeing that you had lied.
The youngest member of Congress wasn’t quite satisfied with that response.
“So, we can–so you won’t take down lies or you will take down lies?” she demanded. “I think that’s just a pretty simple yes or no. I’m not talking about spin. I’m talking about actual misinformation.”
“Yes, in most cases, in a democracy, I believe that people should be able to see for themselves what politicians–that they may or may not vote for–are saying so that they can judge their character for themselves,” Zuckerberg reiterated.
“So, you won’t take them down?” Ocasio-Cortez asked again. “You may flag that it’s wrong but you won’t take them down?”
Zuckerberg replied that it depended on the context.
[image via screengrab/CSPAN]