Tlaib grills Facebook CEO Zuckerberg over hate speech

By: - October 23, 2019 2:18 pm
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was back before Congress on Wednesday. Last year, as seen here, he testified before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib pressed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday over the company’s policy to allow politicians to violate its rules on speech.

The social media company announced recently that it will allow politicians to skirt Facebook’s community standards, stating that it isn’t the company’s place to censor newsworthy speech.

“Why should the very politicians who lead our country be held to a lower standard for truthfulness and decency than the average American?” Tlaib (D-Detroit) asked Zuckerberg during a hearing before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee.

“This isn’t about helping the politicians,” Zuckerberg told her. “This is about making sure that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying.”

Tlaib cut him off. “But Mr. Zuckerberg, it is hate speech, it is hate,” she said. “And it’s leading to violence and death threats in my office. It’s untruthful.”

Rashida Tlaib
Rashida Tlaib

At a June hearing on white supremacy, Tlaib read a death threat that had been sent to her office saying, “The only good Muslim is a dead one,” the Michigan Advance previously reported.

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, said in September, “It is not our role to intervene when politicians speak,” Forbes reported at the time.

“I know some people will say we should go further, that we are wrong to allow politicians to use our platform to say nasty things or make false claims,” Clegg added. “But imagine the reverse: Would it be acceptable to society at large to have a private company in effect become a self-appointed referee for everything that politicians say? I don’t believe it would be.”

‘Pretty dark time in our world’ 

Tlaib also pressed Zuckerberg on Facebook’s efforts to block hate groups from organizing events on the social media platform. White supremacist hate groups, she said, are regularly using the events page to organize threatening protests in front of mosques, despite Facebook’s stated policy to ban hate groups from using its events page.

Tlaib asked Zuckerberg to view her as not just a congresswoman, but as a “mother that is raising two Muslim boys in this pretty dark time in our world.”

Zuckerberg told her that he takes the matter very seriously, and acknowledged that Facebook is trying to do better on that front.

“It’s very hard to police every instance of this,” he told Tlaib. “We’re not perfect. We make a lot of mistakes.”

People share more than 100 billion pieces of content per day across Facebook’s services, he said, so even if they make mistakes on relatively small percent of content, it adds up.

“This is really hard stuff,” he said, pointing to a “constant effort to do better.”

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Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender

Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.