- Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz on Monday accused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of lying to Congress during two hearings in 2018 and asked Attorney General William Barr to investigate the matter.
- Gaetz alleged that Zuckerberg made false statements by “repeatedly and categorically [denying] any bias against conservative speech, persons, policies, or politics” on Facebook.
- The Florida congressman cited a recent sting operation by the dubious right-wing activist group Project Veritas to support his allegations against Zuckerberg.
- President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers frequently accuse Facebook and Zuckerberg of harboring anti-conservative bias.
- But journalists have pointed out that many of the top-performing posts on Facebook are from right-wing pages, and that Zuckerberg has held several off-the-record dinners with influential conservative figures.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz on Monday accused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of lying to Congress in 2018 and asked the Justice Department to investigate the matter.
In a letter to Attorney General William Barr, Gaetz alleged that Zuckerberg made false statements to Congress about Facebook’s content moderation during two hearings two years ago.
“On both occasions, members of Congress asked Mr. Zuckerberg about allegations that Facebook censored and suppressed content supportive of President Donald Trump and other conservatives,” Gaetz wrote.
“In his responses, Mr. Zuckerberg repeatedly and categorically denied any bias against conservative speech, persons, policies, or politics,” he added. “Mr. Zuckerberg also dismissed the suggestion that Facebook exercises any form of editorial manipulation.”
Here’s what Zuckerberg said in 2018 when he was asked about whether Facebook harbors anti-conservative bias:
“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 his letter to Barr, Gaetz said that “recent reports from Project Veritas, featuring whistleblowers who worked as Facebook’s ‘content moderators,’ have shown ample evidence” of Facebook’s purported “bias and manipulation” against conservative speech.
Project Veritas is a right-wing activist group that frequently traffics in misinformation and propaganda. The organization is known for its sting operations against mainstream-media outlets and for deceptively editing videos.
Last month, Project Veritas published hidden-camera footage that appeared to show Facebook content moderators saying they delete posts that are pro-Trump or express conservative views.
“According to the Veritas report and undercover footage, the adjudicators were outspoken about their political bias against Republicans, and actively chose to eliminate otherwise-allowable content from the platform and from public view simply due to its political orientation,” Gaetz wrote to Barr.
“This arbitrary and capricious behavior is not done in good faith and falls outside of the express intent of §230 of the Communications Decency Act, which affords Facebook liability protection as long as the platform moderates content in ‘good faith.'”
The Florida congressman added that Project Veritas’ investigation also found that Facebook labeled “a great deal of ‘political speech’ supporting the President” as hate speech in violation of the company’s policies.
“At the same time,” Gaetz said, “speech promoting violence against the President and his supporters was labeled as merely ‘political,’ and was thus allowed to stay on the platform.
“These facts are in direct contrast to Mr. Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress where he stated under oath that Facebook is a politically-neutral platform, and that he personally is working to root out any employees who are restricting speech based on Silicon Valley’s overwhelmingly leftist culture,” he added. “Such misrepresentations are not only unfair, they are potentially illegal and fraudulent. I hope you will give this referral full and proper consideration.”
Trump, conservative lawmakers, and right-wing media figures have repeatedly accused Zuckerberg and Facebook of anti-conservative bias.
But journalists have said that many of the top-performing posts on Facebook come from right-wing pages and media outlets. The social-media giant has also been sharply criticized for allowing politicians to publish ads that aren’t subject to third-party fact-checking. And last year Politico reported that Zuckerberg has held several off-the-record dinners with influential conservative figures including the Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.