Amid bipartisan efforts to regulate Facebook’s amassing power, size and wealth at the state and federal level, CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with President Donald Trump at the White House Thursday evening.
The president has repeatedly blasted Facebook for being “anti-Trump,” and violating antitrust law, while his supporters have long warned the social media network is demonstrably and brazenly biased against conservatives.
Earlier this year, Trump warned the platform is on the side of the “Radical Left Democrats.”
Yet, Facebook and Trump both insisted the meeting was productive.
Facebook described the meeting as “constructive.”
“Mark is in Washington, D.C., meeting with policymakers to hear their concerns and talk about future internet regulation,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
“He also had a good, constructive meeting with President Trump at the White House today,” the spokesperson added.
Prior to meeting with the president, Zuckerberg met in closed-door meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (AK), John Cornyn (TX), Mike Lee (UT), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, and Josh Hawley (MO), who launched the first antitrust and privacy investigation of Big Tech by his state’s attorney general in 2017.
Hawley issued a statement after his meeting with Zuckerberg, telling reporters he demanded Zuckerberg submit to a third-party audit on censorship and additionally sell its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp, acquisitions that prompted the Federal Trade Commission and 50 state attorneys general to launch antitrust probes into the company.
If Facebook is serious about remedying universal concerns “over bias, privacy and competition,” the digital market titan will comply, Hawley warned.
Zuckerberg, who attended the meeting with Facebook’s global chief Joel Kaplan, said “no to both,” Hawley tweeted.
As a sea of reporters encircled the Facebook CEO, he refused to answer a single question from the media.
The tech mogul also met with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, during his visit. Facebook reportedly asked the Democrat senator to arrange a dinner meeting in Washington on Wednesday night between Zuckerberg and his Senate colleagues.
Hawley and Warner have sponsored legislation that would mandate Big Tech inform users about what data they are collecting and how much they are profiting from selling the data to third party advertisers.
The Senate has “enormous concerns about privacy and about protecting the integrity of our political system” and Zuckerberg needs to hear them, Warner told the Associated Press.
Standing in front of the Supreme Court in Washington last week, fifty attorneys general from U.S. states and territories charged Facebook and Google with antitrust violations and signed onto an antitrust lawsuit to investigate whether the tech giants have used their conglomerate power to eliminate their competitors and stifle users. Only Alabama and California opted-out of the investigation.
The visit Thursday marks the first time Zuckerberg has visited the capital since April 2018, when he defended Facebook in tense public testimony during the Cambridge Analytica data-sharing scandal.
Facebook is also facing a major legal battle waged by investigative journalist and congressional candidate Laura Loomer. In a court filing seeking to dismiss the $3 billion defamation lawsuit Loomer filed against the tech company, Facebook argued that it is a “publisher,” and therefore can ban and censor “dangerous individuals” under the First Amendment.
In May, Facebook permanently banned Loomer and defamed her when they branded her as a “dangerous individual”. When Loomer filed her lawsuit, Facebook updated their terms of service to include a section that allowed its users to post threats against “dangerous individuals”.
However, Zuckerberg has insisted under oath in Congressional testimony that Facebook is a “platform,” and is therefore exempt from prosecution of illegal activity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Tech “platforms” are not liable for content created by its user under the law, while “publishers” are in prosecutorial jeopardy if their writers defame someone.
It is undeniable that Facebook defamed Loomer.
Facebook’s admission of being a publisher amid the legal battle may nullify its Section 230 protections.