In a recent interview with CBS, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that President Trump did not lobby him during a private dinner in October.
Instead, Zuckerberg told the TV network on Dec. 3 that both he and Trump, along with Facebook investor Peter Thiel, “talked about a number of things that were on [Trump’s] mind. And some of the topics that you’d read about in the news around our work.”
When asked by CBS’s Gayle King if Trump lobbied him “in any way,” Zuckerberg said, “No … I think some of the stuff that people talk about or think gets discussed and these discussions are not really how that works.”
Zuckerberg added that he wanted “to respect that it was a private dinner with private discussion.”
Financial Times reporter Kadhim Shubber criticized CBS’s question posed to Zuckerberg.
“No better example of Facebook’s power than Zuckerberg being asked here whether Trump lobbied him, rather than whether he lobbied Trump,” Shubber wrote on Twitter.
No better example of Facebook’s power than Zuckerberg being asked here whether Trump lobbied him, rather than whether he lobbied Trumphttps://t.co/b0OxgkzWth
— kadhim (＾ｰ^)ノ (@kadhimshubber) 2 December 2019
News of the private dinner, which was unreported by the White House and Facebook but reported by NBC, received criticism from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who said it was “corruption, plain and simple,” Common Dreams reported.
Trump has openly castigated Facebook, accusing it of being biased in favor of Democrats.
Facebook Under Fire
Facebook came under fire in October after it declined former Vice President Joe Biden’s request to remove an advertisement by President Trump’s 2020 campaign.
Facebook responded to Biden saying that it would not take down the advertisement.
“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s head of global elections policy, Katie Harbath, wrote in the letter to the Biden campaign, according to The New York Times.
“What I believe is that in a democracy, it’s really important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying, so they can make their own judgments,” Zuckerberg said.
“And, you know, I don’t think that a private company should be censoring politicians or news.”
Zuckerberg’s comments are consistent with his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee that occurred in October.
During the 6-hour-long hearing, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) asked Zuckerberg if she could buy Facebook ads with lies about her political opponents. Zuckerberg replied she could “probably” run such an ad.
CBS has reportedly pushed for further censorship of content deemed “questionable,” “controversial,” and “harmful” on YouTube, which is owned by Google.
Nadine Strossen, law professor and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Epoch Times in an earlier interview that “any policy that restricts such inherently vague, subjectively defined categories of speech as ‘political’ or ‘harmful’ inevitably has an adverse impact on free speech.”
Antitrust investigations against Facebook, including tech giants’ Google, Amazon, and Apple have been instigated by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission at both state and federal levels.
Zachary Stieber, Petr Svab, Bowen Xiao, and Reuters contributed to this report.