Zuckerberg to Cruz on Bias: Silicon Valley "Extremely Left-Leaning" Place, "I Understand" The Concern

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that the tech industry in Silicon Valley is an "extremely left-leaning place" and that political bias is a "concern" for him in testimony before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on Monday.

"I think it is a fair concern that people would at least wonder about," Zuckerberg said.

Cruz grilled the Facebook founder about a "pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship" that targets conservative voices on the social media platform. The Texas Senator pointed to prior incidents such as the trending news stories feed, stories about Mitt Romney, CPAC, and even Glenn Beck.





Cruz also mentioned the recent example of black Trump supporters Diamond and Silk, a popular Facebook group page, being deemed a danger to "the community."

"Mr. Zuckerberg, I will say there are a great many Americans, who I think are deeply concerned that Facebook and other tech companies are engaged in a pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship. There have been numerous instances with Facebook. In May of 2016, Gizmodo reported that Facebook had purposefully and routinely suppressed conservative stories from trending news, including stories about CPAC, including stories about Mitt Romney, including stories about the Lois Lerner IRS scandal, including stories about Glenn Beck. In addition to that, Facebook has initially shut down the ‘Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day' page, has blocked a post of a Fox News reporter, has blocked over two dozen Catholic pages, and most recently, blocked Trump supporters Diamond and Silk's page with 1.2 million Facebook followers, after determining their content and brand were, ‘unsafe to the community.' To a great many Americans, that appears to be a pervasive pattern of political bias. Do you agree with that assessment?" Cruz asked.

"Senator, let me say a few things about this," Zuckerberg began. "First, 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. And this is actually a concern that I have and that I try to root out in the company is making sure that we don't have any bias in the work that we do, and I think it is a fair concern that people would at least wonder about."

"In your testimony, you say that you have 15,000 to 20,000 people working on security and content review. Do you know the political orientation of those 15,000 to 20,000 people engaged in content review?" Cruz also asked.

"No, Senator. We do not generally ask people about their political orientation when they're joining the company," Zuckerberg answered.

Cruz also asked Zuckerberg about the departure of Palmer Luckey, the inventor of the Facebook-owned Oculus who left in 2016 after it was discovered he funded pro-Trump groups. Facebook never made it clear whether Luckey was fired or left on his own volition.

"Why was Palmer Luckey fired?" Cruz bluntly asked.

"That is a specific personnel matter that seems like it would be inappropriate to speak to here," Zuckerberg said.

"You made a specific representation that you didn't make decisions based on political views. Is that accurate?" Cruz followed.

"I can commit that it was not because of a political view," the Facebook founder insisted.

Cruz followed with questions about how Facebook employees make decisions to censor content from people and groups they deem "unacceptable or deplorable."

Read transcript of the full exchange:

Sen. Cruz: "Mr. Zuckerberg, I will say there are a great many Americans, who I think are deeply concerned that Facebook and other tech companies are engaged in a pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship. There have been numerous instances with Facebook. In May of 2016, Gizmodo reported that Facebook had purposefully and routinely suppressed conservative stories from trending news, including stories about CPAC, including stories about Mitt Romney, including stories about the Lois Lerner IRS scandal, including stories about Glenn Beck. In addition to that, Facebook has initially shut down the ‘Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day' page, has blocked a post of a Fox News reporter, has blocked over two dozen Catholic pages, and most recently, blocked Trump supporters Diamond and Silk's page with 1.2 million Facebook followers, after determining their content and brand were, ‘unsafe to the community.' To a great many Americans, that appears to be a pervasive pattern of political bias. Do you agree with that assessment?"

Mr. Zuckerberg: "Senator, let me say a few things about this. First, 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. And this is actually a concern that I have and that I try to root out in the company is making sure that we don't have any bias in the work that we do, and I think it is a fair concern that people would at least wonder about."

Sen. Cruz: "So let me ask this question. Are you aware of any ad or page that has been taken down from Planned Parenthood?"

Mr. Zuckerberg: "Senator, I'm not. But let me just, can I finish?"

Sen. Cruz: "How about MoveOn.org?"

Mr. Zuckerberg: "Sorry?"

Sen. Cruz: "How about MoveOn.org?"

Mr. Zuckerberg: "I'm not specifically aware of those."

Sen. Cruz: "How about any Democratic candidate for office?"

Mr. Zuckerberg: "I'm not specifically aware. I mean, I'm not sure."

Sen. Cruz: "In your testimony, you say that you have 15,000 to 20,000 people working on security and content review. Do you know the political orientation of those 15,000 to 20,000 people engaged in content review?"

Mr. Zuckerberg: "No, Senator. We do not generally ask people about their political orientation when they're joining the company."

Sen. Cruz: "So as CEO, have you made hiring or firing decisions based on political positions or what candidates they supported?"

Mr. Zuckerberg: "No."

Sen. Cruz: "Why was Palmer Luckey fired?"

Mr. Zuckerberg: "That is a specific personnel matter that seems like it would be inappropriate to speak to here."

Sen. Cruz: "You made a specific representation that you didn't make decisions based on political views. Is that accurate?"

Mr. Zuckerberg: "I can commit that it was not because of a political view."

Sen. Cruz: "Do you know of the 15,000 to 20,000 people engaged in content review, how many, if any, have ever supported financially a Republican candidate for office?"

Mr. Zuckerberg: "Senator, I do not know that."

Sen. Cruz: "Your testimony says, ‘It is not enough that we just connect people. We have to make sure those connections are positive.' It says, ‘We have to make sure people aren't using their voice to hurt people or spread misinformation. We have a responsibility not just to build tools, but to make sure those tools are used for good.' Mr. Zuckerberg, do you feel it's your responsibility to assess users whether they are good and positive connections or ones those 15,000 to 20,000 people deem unacceptable or deplorable?"

Mr. Zuckerberg: "Senator, you're asking about me personally?"

Sen. Cruz: "Facebook."

Mr. Zuckerberg: "Senator, I think that there are a number of things that we would all agree are clearly bad. Foreign interference in our elections, terrorism, self-harm. Those are things..."

Sen. Cruz: "I'm talking about censorship."

Mr. Zuckerberg: "Oh, well, I think that you would probably agree we should remove terrorist propaganda from the service. So that I agree, I think is clearly bad activity that we want to get down and we are generally proud of how well we do with that. Now, what I can say, and I do want to get this in before the end here, is that I am very committed to making sure that Facebook is a platform for all ideas. That is a very important, founding principle of what we do. We're proud of the discourse and different ideas that people can share on the service, and that is something that as long as I'm running the company, I'm going to be committed to making sure is the case."

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