WASHINGTON, DC: United States congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday (Oct 23) interrogated Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the social media platform’s policy on fact-checking political advertisements.
Ocasio-Cortez's questioning came as Zuckerberg fielded questions in the US House of Representatives on the launch of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project. Several lawmakers have expressed their distrust of Facebook providing financial services to its users given its past scandals.
While the New York congresswoman asked Zuckerberg about his knowledge of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and his “dinner parties with far-right figures”, Ocasio-Cortez focused her questioning on political ads on the social media platform.
Facebook had earlier this week said it would not take down politicians' posts that violate its community standards, saying it should not be the arbiter of acceptable speech in the political arena.
“In order for us to make decisions about Libra, I think we need to kind of dig into your past behaviour and Facebook’s past behaviour with respect to our democracy,” Ocasio-Cortez said as she began her questioning.
During the hearing, she asked Zuckerberg if she, too, could pay to run ads containing wrong information on the website.
“You announced recently that the official policy of Facebook now allows politicians to spread disinformation in (the) 2020 elections and in the future,” she said.
“Could I pay to target predominantly black zip codes and advertise them the incorrect election date?”
Zuckerberg replied that she could not.
He said: “If anyone, including a politician, is saying things ... that is calling for violence or could risk imminent physical harm or voter or census suppression, when we roll out the census suppression policy, we will take that content down."
Ocasio-Cortez then asked if she could run advertisements targeting Republicans and primaries saying that they voted for the Green New Deal, a proposed piece of legislation she sponsors that tackles climate change and inequality.
“If you're not fact-checking political advertisements, I'm just trying to understand the bounds here. What's fair game?” she said.
When Zuckerberg answered he did not know “off the top of (his) head”, before adding, "I think probably", Ocasio-Cortez replied: “Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?
“So you won’t take down lies or you will take down lies? I think that’s just a pretty simple 'yes' or 'no'.”
Zuckerberg said that flagging and taking down posts would depend on the context it shows up on.
“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," he said.