What do Diamond & Silk and Chick-fil-A have in common? According to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), they’ve been targeted by Facebook’s liberal bias.
The conservative senator on Tuesday raised concerns about the political lean of Facebook while CEO Mark Zuckerberg was in the hot seat in front of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committee.
“Does Facebook consider itself to be a neutral public forum?” Cruz asked at the outset. When the Facebook founder gave what the senator apparently deemed an unsatisfactory answer, he interrupted: “It’s just a simple question… Do you consider yourself a neutral public forum? Or are you engaged in political speech, which is your right under the First Amendment?”
Zuckerberg replied: “Our goal is not to engage in political speech.”
An antagonistic Cruz then asked Zuckerberg why specific conservative voices have allegedly been suppressed, or shut down, on the social platform.
“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,” Cruz told the social-media titan. “Facebook routinely suppressed conservative stories from trending news, including stories about CPAC… about Mitt Romney… about the Lois Lerner IRS scandal… about Glenn Beck. In addition to that, Facebook has initially shut down the ‘Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day’ page, has blocked posts of a Fox News reporter, has blocked over two-dozen Catholic pages.”
The senator then claimed that Facebook has recently “blocked Trump supporters Diamond & Silk's page, with 1.2 million Facebook followers, after determining their content and brand were, quote, ‘unsafe to the community.’”
In response, Zuckerberg said that Facebook is located in Silicon Valley, “an extremely left-leaning place” by his own admission. “I try to root out in the company is making sure we don’t have any bias in the work we do and I think it is a fair concern that people would wonder about,” he added.
Diamond & Silk are a pair of flamboyant and very public Trump surrogates, who began their career as YouTube stars—often publishing videos like a “Trump’s Yo President” rap and landing frequent Fox & Friends appearances.
Trump has noticed their devotion, lauding them as “two truly fantastic women!” One senior administration official told The Daily Beast that the duo are practically “senior economic advisers to” the president.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Cruz pressed onward, asking why Facebook hasn’t censored the pages of liberal organizations like MoveOn.org or “any Democrat running for office.” He then asked Zuckerberg if his company knows the political orientation of employees tasked with reviewing content.
“No, we do not generally ask people about their political orientation when they're joining the company,” the Facebook founder replied.
Thinking he trapped Zuckerberg, Cruz then got to the punchline, invoking the saga of Palmer Luckey, the Facebook-associated tech billionaire whom The Daily Beast exposed as having secretly funded a group dedicated to “shitposting” negative memes about Hillary Clinton. Luckey was the founder of Oculus VR, which was bought by Facebook. Months after his meme machine was outed, Luckey departed the company altogether.
“Why was Palmer Luckey fired?” Cruz asked.
Zuckerberg replied: “That is a specific personnel matter that would seem like it would be inappropriate to speak to here.”
Cruz continued to grill him, claiming he “just made a specific representation that you didn’t make decisions based on political views.”
“Well, I can commit that it was not because of a political view,” Zuckerberg said.