New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—aka the Notorious AOC, aka key member of the House’s progressive “Squad”—set Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg back on his heels Wednesday when she grilled him about the social media giant’s potential to manipulate marginalized communities in next year’s elections.
The exchange came during hearings for the House Financial Services Committee, according to Fox Business. Lawmakers brought Zuckerberg before them to discuss Facebook’s desire to start its own cryptocurrency, Libra. But the discussion soon expanded to other issues they had with Facebook, including its influence on the voting public by allowing politicians’ ads to appear on the site without proper vetting or fact-checking.
Ocasio-Cortez grilled Zuckerberg about how far afield from the truth a political ad could be before it would possibly raise red flags or be taken down from the site.
“You announced recently that the official policy of Facebook now allows politicians to pay to spread disinformation in 2020 elections and in the future,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Under your policy ... could I pay to target predominantly black zip codes and advertise them the incorrect election date?”
Zuckerberg responded in the negative, but seemed to backtrack when pressed by the congresswoman about whether that then meant that Facebook would indeed be fact-checking ads.
“So there is some threshold where you will fact-check?” Ocasio-Cortez pressed. “Could I run ads targeting Republicans in primaries saying they voted for [the progressive-Democrat-backed] Green New Deal? ... If you’re not fact-checking political advertisements, I’m just trying to understand the bounds here.”
“I don’t know the answer to that off the top of my head,” Zuckerberg responded.
“So, you don’t know if I’ll be able to do that,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Do you see the potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?”
“I think lying is bad,” a seemingly exasperated Zuckerberg answered.
“So you won’t take down lies, or you will take down lies?” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I think that’s just a pretty simple yes or no?”
“In a democracy, I believe people should be able to see for themselves what politicians, that they may or may not vote for, are saying and judge their character for themselves,” said the social media chief.
“So you won’t take them down,” she said. “You may flag them as wrong, but you won’t take them down.”
“It depends on the context,” he said.
AOC moved on to question the inclusion of apparent white-supremacist-adjacent entities on Facebook’s official fact-checking team:
“Can you explain why you’ve named the Daily Caller, a publication well documented with ties to white supremacists, as an official fact-checker with Facebook?”
Zuckerberg passed the buck, blaming an organization called the Independent Fact-Checking Network, saying it employed a “rigorous standard” in deciding who to have on the team.
“So you would say that white-supremacists-tied publications meet a rigorous standard for fact-checking?” the congresswoman asked.
There was a noticeably long pause.
Check out a portion of AOC’s and Zuckerberg’s exchange as broadcast on C-SPAN 2: