Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been hosting informal conversations and off-the-record dinners with conservative journalists, commentators and at least one Republican lawmaker to discuss free speech and possible partnerships, Politico found.
With the right criticizing Facebook for having “bias” against conservative news outlets, Zuckerberg allegedly held these talks to bridge the gap between them.
The news of these meetings breaking suggests Zuckerberg may be trying to pander to the White House, as President Trump and his supporters have repeatedly attacked Facebook for sharing what he says is biased information about him. In June, Trump said he wanted to sue Facebook and Google.
The debate over Facebook’s alleged bias is complex. Former Republican Sen. Jon Kyl and those from the law firm Covington and Burling, LLC published an investigation into Facebook’s alleged bias against conservative viewpoints earlier this year. The report claims certain Facebook policies used to counter false information has silenced conservative voices on the platform, because the fact-checking sites it uses — like Snopes and Politifact — “have skewed to the ideological Left.”
Though certain facts may bolster one side’s views over the other, inherent in the definition of “facts” is that they transcend bias.
On the other side, a study by Media Matters — a progressive watch group — also has found that Facebook’s algorithms have actually bolstered right-wing meme pages. And an audit from this past May found that Fox News was the second most prominent publisher on Facebook.
Facebook also has come under fire from politicians — like Elizabeth Warren — after a recently-changed ad policy allowed politicians to share ads exempt from fact-checking.
We intentionally made a Facebook ad with false claims and submitted it to Facebook’s ad platform to see if it’d be approved. It got approved quickly and the ad is now running on Facebook. Take a look: pic.twitter.com/7NQyThWHgO
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 12, 2019
According to Politico’s investigation, among the people Zuckerberg has met with have been Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, CNN commentator Mary Katharine Ham, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and several other conservative media members.
All of these figures have accused Facebook of bias against conservatives. But Politico also reported a Facebook spokesperson’s defense of Zuckerberg, citing recent meetings with Democrats in Washington.
“For years, Mark Zuckerberg has met with elected officials and thought leaders all across the political spectrum,” according to a statement from the spokesperson in Politico’s report.
A nameless source that tipped Politico off to these meetings said the conversations occurred at one of Zuckerberg’s California homes. “Free expression, unfair treatment of conservatives, the appeals process for real or perceived unfair treatment, fact checking, partnerships, and privacy,” were among the topics they discussed.
In response to the Politico article and others in its wake, Zuckerberg took to his site: