Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday afternoon to face questions from the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees about foreign interference in U.S. elections and the theft of millions of Americans' personal data.
Most of the senators questioning the Facebook CEO pushed him on privacy issues and the vulnerabilities exploited by companies like Cambridge Analytica in their attempts to swing the 2016 election. Texas Sen.Ted Cruz, whose campaign paid Cambridge Analytica almost $6 million for voter targeting services during his presidential run, did not.
Instead, Cruz used all of his time with Zuckerberg to accuse the CEO and his company of political bias against conservatives.
"There are a great many Americans who are deeply concerned that Facebook and other tech companies are engaged in a pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship," Cruz said.
The social network, the senator said, frequently shuts down conservative pages deemed unsafe by Facebook's content reviewers but fails to do so for liberal pages.
"Facebook has initially shut down the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day page, has blocked the post of a Fox News reporter, has blocked over two dozen Catholic pages and most recently blocked Trump supporter Diamond and Silk's Facebook page, with 1.2 million followers, after determining their content and brand were quote 'unsafe to the community.' To a great many Americans, that appears to be a pervasive pattern of political bias," Cruz said, repeating himself and inspiring quite a few funny tweets.
other senators: *valid and pertinent questions*— Jill Gutowitz (@jillboard) April 10, 2018
ted cruz: THE BAD MAN TAKE DOWN CHIK-FIL-A APPRECIATION DAY MEMES FROM MY NEWS FEEDS pic.twitter.com/fnjdrphrmX
Zuckerberg did his best to address Cruz's questions.
"I understand where that concern is coming from because Facebook and the tech industry are located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely left-leaning place," Zuckerberg said. "This is actually a concern that I have, and that I try to root out at the company — is making sure that we don't have any bias in the work that we do."
Cruz then asked a series of questions that Zuckerberg said he couldn't answer.
"Are you aware of any ad or page that's been taken down from Planned Parenthood?"
"How about MoveOn.org?"
"How about any Democratic candidate for office?"
Satisfied that he'd made his point, Cruz launched into his best Joe McCarthy impersonation, suggesting that he knew something about the political orientation of those working on content review for Facebook.
"In your testimony, you say you have 15 [thousand] to 20,000 people working on content review. Do you know the political orientation of those 20,000 people engaged in content review?" Cruz asked
"No Senator, we do not generally ask people about their political orientation when they join the company," Zuckerberg said.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Cruz pushed Zuckerberg further, accusing him of firing Oculus founder Palmer Luckey after The Daily Beast outed Lucky for secretly funding a pro-Trump internet activist group called Nimble America.
“That is a specific personnel matter that seems like it would be inappropriate to speak to here,” Zuckerberg told Cruz. "I can comment that it was not because of a political view.”
Despite the fact that he failed to ask a single on-topic question during his exchange with Zuckerberg, Cruz proudly published the whole exchange on his YouTube channel minutes after the hearing was over.
“Mr. Zuckerberg, when will Facebook fix the bug that has prevented my friends from RSVPing to every single one of my birthday parties?" pic.twitter.com/ww3fWdeAkl— Jason O. Gilbert (@gilbertjasono) April 10, 2018