Mark Zuckerberg squirmed on Monday when asked if President Trump lobbied him not to ban political ads on Facebook ahead of the 2020 election at their secret White House dinner meeting.
The Facebook CEO and his wife Priscilla sat down with Gayle King for CBS This Morning where he said he did not think it was Facebook’s role, as a private company, to ban political ads even if they contained false information.
Despite 200 of his employees signing a letter begging him to police politicians’ ads Zuckerberg said: ‘What I believe is that in a democracy, it’s really important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying so that they can make their own judgement.’
Asked by King if Trump had lobbied him to continue allowing the ads during their controversial secret White House meeting in October, he became shifty and struggled to answer.
‘No, I don’t think that that’s… some of the stuff that people talk about and gets discussed and these discussions.. it’s not really how that works.
Mark Zuckerberg was interviewed by Gayle King in a segment which aired on Monday in which he dodged questions about what he and Trump discussed in October at their secret White House meeting
‘I also want to respect that it was a private dinner, a private discussion,’ Zuckerberg said.
When asked what the pair talked about, he replied: ‘We talked about a number of things that were on his mind and some of the topics you’d read in the news around our work.’
The president at a rally in Florida on November 26
Facebook has been slammed for its role in the 2016 election where, it has since been confirmed by politicians on both sides of the aisle, Russian hackers and fake accounts bought up pro-Trump ads on the social network and incited small groups of voters with fake information. Their input swayed the election to help Trump win.
Zuckerberg has since come under intense pressure not to let the same thing happen again in 2020. He maintains that it should not be down to him to decide what can and cannot be visible to voters.
In September, Facebook decided that political ads would be exempt from its fact checking policy.
It contradicts how other tech companies are preparing for the election.
Twitter has vowed not to allow political ads on its platforms, and Google has also changed its rules to make it more difficult to target specific groups.
There were reports last month that Facebook was considering making it more difficult for ad-buyers to target users last month, but it has been officially implemented yet.
His argument that it is not his responsibility to police ads is in conflict with his ongoing fight with congress against anti-trust complaints and the notion that he has too much power in the tech world.
Facebook has continually resisted the suggestion that the company should be governed by an external board, and promises to self-regulate.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced in October that Twitter was banning political ads ahead of the election. Google has also tightened its rules to make it more difficult for groups to be targeted
Democrats including Elizabeth Warren are up in arms about Zuckerberg’s decision not to police ads. She took out a Facebook ad to say it amounted to him endorsing Trump, suggesting only he would lie on campaign ads
In October, more than 200 Facebook employees signed a letter denouncing Zuckerberg’s decision not to police ads which contain false information.
‘Misinformation affects us all. Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for.
‘We strongly object to this policy as it stands,’ the letter read.
Zuckerberg said on Monday that people should be able to decide for themselves what is fake and what is not.
‘This is clearly a very complex issue and a lot of people have a lot of different opinions,’ he said.
His wife also chimed in to say it was not solely Facebook’s job to fix the problems which crept up during the last election and have persisted since.
Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla during their interview. They also say they want to cure all diseases by the end of the century
‘When Mark and I talk about these issues together, I also have the lens of being an educator and pediatrician that’s worked deeply with families and individuals in all types of communities. When I zoom out, I see that these are societal problems.
‘These are not problems that one person, one company can fix on their own. There’s not going to be some silver bullet, but we need to work together as a society for that steady progress.
Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel as also at the meeting at the White House
The pair also spoke about their ambitious goal to ‘cure, prevent or manage all diseases’ by the end of the century with their charity, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
‘We’re not going to do that ourselves. We do think that it will be possible to cure, prevent or be able to manage, all diseases by the end of this century,’ he said.
Chan added: ‘Setting audacious goals is important. We need to think about beyond what’s possible.’
Zuckerberg also said of their plan to be able to ‘map every cell in the body’: ‘: ‘I just think of this as a very basic building block for a lot of biological research to happen on top of that.’
Chan, who is a pediatrician, said: ‘You would think that we already know all the cells and what they do. And the thing is we don’t. We need a reference. ‘
More of their interview will air on Tuesday.
Democrats have slammed Zuckerberg’s meeting at the White House as ‘corrupt’.
The pair were joined at the dinner by billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel. Facebook defended it, saying in a statement last month: ‘As is normal for a CEO of a major U.S. company, Mark accepted an invitation to have dinner with the President and First Lady at the White House.’