Rashida Tlaib to Mark Zuckerberg: Why Haven’t You Stopped Hate Groups from Organizing on Facebook?

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We feature more highlights from the five-hour grilling of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week on Capitol Hill, where Michigan Congressmember Rashida Tlaib said she feared that far-right hate groups were using Facebook event pages to incite violence against Muslims and other minorities — including death threats directed at her office. Tlaib asked to be seen not only as a congresswoman, but also as “a mother that is raising two Muslim boys in this pretty dark time in our world.” Meanwhile, California Congressmember Katie Porter pinned Zuckerberg down on Facebook’s privacy policies. “You are arguing in federal court that in a consumer data privacy lawsuit, in which your own lawyers admit that users’ information was stolen, that the plaintiffs fail to articulate any injury,” Porter said. “In other words, no harm, no foul. Facebook messed up, but it doesn’t matter. Is that your position?”

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue with highlights from the more than five-hour grilling of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday before members of the House Financial Services Committee, many of them women, who blasted Zuckerberg over Facebook’s policy of allowing politicians to lie in political advertisements. California Congressmember Maxine Waters chaired the proceedings. In a minute, we’ll hear from California Congressmember Katie Porter, but this is Michigan Congressmember Rashida Tlaib.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: Thank you so much for being here. I know this is going to be really hard in this setting, but try to see me beyond just a congresswoman but also as a mother that is raising two Muslim boys in this pretty dark time in our world, as I ask you these questions, as well. For years, you know, advocacy organizations, as you already know, have been pleading with you and your team to prohibit hate groups from using the events page, which fuel violence against African Americans, Muslims, Jews, immigrants and the LGBTQ community. And you claim you’re very serious about addressing it. And in 2018, even before Congress, you stated — I quote — “We do not allow hate groups on Facebook. If there is a group that their primary purpose or a large part of what they are doing is spreading hate, we will ban them from the platform overall.” So, Mr. Zuckerberg, yes or no, is it still your policy to ban hate groups?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: My understanding is yes.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: OK. Facegroup’s [sic] community standard right now, as it reads, it says, quote, “We are committed to making Facebook a safe place.” Very good. “Expression that threatens people, has the potential to intimidate or exclude or silence others isn’t going to be allowed on Facebook.” I want to refer to a photo up on the monitor right now showing a man holding a rifle outside of a mosque, intimidating fellow Americans. Mr. Zuckerberg, yes or no, does this meet your community standards?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I — I’m not sure I’m in a position right now to evaluate any given post against all of the different standards that we have.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: So, white supremacist hate groups still regularly use the events pages to organize threatening protests in front of mosques, and these protesters are often armed. The hateful rally in this picture was planned on a Facebook event page. … Recently, Facebook has taken the step further by permitting politicians to violate their community standards. Mr. Zuckerberg, why should the very politicians who lead our country be held to a lower standard for truthfulness and decency than the average American?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, this isn’t about helping the politicians. This is about making sure that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: I know, but, Mr. Zuckerberg, it is hate speech. It is hate. And it’s leading to violence and death threats in my office. It’s untruthful. And I understand that folks are working on it, right? On your team. But if it’s leading to actual real violence towards people that are innocent, that are not — these are untruthful statements but also those that — you know, again, it’s a pretty dark time in our country, and we need to be able to play a part in reducing that violence.

REP. MAXINE WATERS: The gentlelady from California, Ms. Porter, is recognized for five minutes.

REP. KATIE PORTER: Mr. Zuckerberg, as you know, Facebook can be sometimes an unkind place, both toward my personal appearance and today, apparently, towards your haircut. But I just — as a mother of a teenage boy, I just want to say thanks for modeling the short cut. You have said, quote, “We have a responsibility to protect our data, and if we can’t, then we don’t deserve to serve you,” unquote. Do you remember making that statement?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, yes.

REP. KATIE PORTER: And Facebook’s privacy principles say, one, we give you control of your privacy; two, you own and can delete your information; and, three, we are accountable. Today, can you affirm that Facebook cares about user privacy and still holds itself to the standards it articulates in its public policies?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, we certainly care about privacy.

REP. KATIE PORTER: OK.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: It’s incredibly important to people.

REP. KATIE PORTER: Great.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: And — and —

REP. KATIE PORTER: Super. If that’s true that you care about privacy and you’re hewing to these principles, why are you arguing, Facebook, in federal court, that consumers can’t hold you liable for any of these promises, because, quote, “as plaintiffs admit, they and every Facebook user are bound by Facebook’s terms of service, which release Facebook from liability for users’ contract and common law claims”?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I’m not familiar with that specific legal argument.

REP. KATIE PORTER: Well, it’s on the — it’s right there for you. You are arguing in federal court that the — in a consumer data privacy lawsuit, in which your own lawyers admit that users’ information was stolen, that the plaintiffs failed to articulate any injury. In other words, no harm, no foul; Facebook messed up, but it doesn’t matter. Is that your position?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I’m not familiar with all the context here, so it’s — and I’m not a lawyer. So it’s a little bit hard for me to weigh in on the specifics.

REP. KATIE PORTER: Mr. Zuckerberg, as CEO and the tremendously proportional shareholder of Facebook, you are responsible for the legal arguments that your company makes. You hire these lawyers. Will you commit to withdrawing this argument and this pleading and never again plead that there is no liability on Facebook when data breaches occur?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, you’re certainly right that I am CEO and I’m responsible for everything that happens in the company. All that I’m saying is that I imagine that there are more pages to this document and — 

REP. KATIE PORTER: OK, I’m going to take that as a no for right now, but I would like you to consider it.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: I will.

REP. KATIE PORTER: I think your pleading is inconsistent with your privacy principles, and I think that American people are tired of this hypocrisy. I’ve been in Congress 10 months, and I have already lost count of how many people have sat in exactly that chair and said one thing to me and to this Congress and then done another thing in federal court. I want to turn to a different issue. Facebook is known as a great place to work — free food, ping-pong tables, great employee benefits. But Facebook doesn’t use its employees for the hardest jobs in the company. You’ve got about 15,000 contractors watching murders, stabbings, suicides, other gruesome, disgusting videos for content moderation, correct?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, yes, I believe that that’s correct.

REP. KATIE PORTER: You pay many of those workers under $30,000 a year, and you’ve cut them off from mental healthcare when they leave the company, even if they have PTSD because of their work for your company. Is that correct?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, my understanding is we pay everyone, including the contractors associated with the company, at least a $15 minimum wage. And in markets in cities where there’s a high cost of living, that’s a $20 minimum wage. We go out of our way to offer a lot of mental health — 

REP. KATIE PORTER: Thank you. I take your word at the wage. Reclaiming my time. According to one report I have — and this is straight out of an episode of Black Mirror — these workers get nine — nine— minutes of supervised wellness time per day. That means nine minutes to cry in the stairwell while somebody watches them. Would you be willing to commit to spending one hour a day for the next year watching these videos and acting as a content monitor and only accessing the same benefits available to your workers?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, we work hard to make sure that we give good benefits to all the folks who are doing this.

REP. KATIE PORTER: Mr. Zuckerberg, reclaiming my time. I would appreciate a yes or a no. Would you be willing to act as a content monitor, to have that life experience?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: I’m not sure that it would best serve our community for me to spend that much time a year doing this.

REP. KATIE PORTER: Reclaiming my time. Mr. Zuckerberg — 

MARK ZUCKERBERG: But I spend a lot of time looking at this content.

REP. KATIE PORTER: Reclaiming my time. Mr. Zuckerberg, are you saying you’re not qualified to be a content monitor?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: No, congresswoman. That’s not what I’m saying.

REP. KATIE PORTER: OK, then you’re saying you’re not willing to do it. How many lobbyists are on your payroll?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I don’t know the answer to that.

REP. KATIE PORTER: Sixty, so five dozen lobbyists. And I wanted to ask about the timing of your announcement this week to invest $1 billion into housing charity on the day before your testimony before this committee. You may respond in writing. My time is expired.

AMY GOODMAN: California Congressmember Katie Porter and Michigan Congressmember Rashida Tlaib grilling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the crisis of homelessness in America. We go to Oakland.

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