Zuckerberg: Nesbitt ad rejection possible ‘mistake’

April 11, 2018 GMT

Washington — Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday he didn’t know anything about his website’s rejectio of an ad from a Michigan political candidate, suggesting the social-media platform may have made a “mistake.”

At a House hearing, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, asked Zuckerberg why former state Rep. Aric Nesbitt’s campaign announcement for the Michigan Senate would have been rejected for allegedly containing “shocking, disrespectful or sensational content, including ads that depict violence or threats of violence.”

Upton said the campaign ad was a “rather positive announcement” and questioned why it was excluded.

“I’m not sure where the threat was based on what he tried to post?” Upton said after reading the full ad aloud to Zuckerberg.

“Congressman, I’m not sure either. I’m not familiar with that case. It’s quite possible we made a mistake,” Zuckerberg replied, adding that his team would follow up after the hearing.

Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, also raised the Nesbitt situation with Zuckerberg during the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s hearing. Walberg said Nesbitt, R-Lawton, is his former legislative director.

“Can you assure me that ads and content are not being denied based on particular views?” Walberg asked.

“Yes, politically,” Zuckerberg replied. “Although when I hear that, I hear normal, political speech. We certainly are not going to allow ads for terrorist content, for example. So we’d be banning those views.”

Nesbitt, a former state lottery commissioner, highlighted the matter last week, suggesting that Facebook was trying to “censor conservatives.”

“I announced my campaign for the state Senate this week, and I figured I’d boost the post to share the news,” Nesbitt explained in a Facebook post.

“Apparently, Facebook found our common sense values of wanting limited government, a ban on sanctuary cities, and defending the Right to Life and the 2nd Amendment offensive and rejected it. Were you offended?”

Nesbitt included an image of the response he received from Facebook, telling him the ad wasn’t approved because it didn’t follow the website’s “advertising policies.”

Zuckerberg also testified on Tuesday before a joint Senate hearing, where he answered questions about potential regulation of social media companies amid scandals involving consumer privacy and Russian election intrusion.

During testimony, Zuckerberg said certain content clearly isn’t permitted on Facebook including hate and terrorist speech, nudity and anything that would make people feel “unsafe.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Zuckerberg about concerns that Facebook has blocked other conservative posts and pages and “engaged in a pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship.”

Zuckerberg said he understands where that concern comes from “because Facebook and the tech industry are located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely left-leaning place.”

“This is actually a concern that I have and that I try to root out in the company — is making sure that we do not have any bias in the work that we do, and I think it is a fair concern that people would at least wonder about,” Zuckerberg told Cruz.

The former presidential hopeful asked whether Zuckerberg knows the political orientation of the 20,000 people engaged in content or security review for Facebook.

“No, senator. We do not generally ask people about their political orientation when they’re joining the company,” Zuckerberg replied.

GOP South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, asked Zuckerberg for assurance that when the company improves its tools to weed out “bad actors,” that it “errs on the side of protecting speech, especially political speech from all different corners.”

Zuckerberg said it is Facebook’s approach.

“If there is an eminent threat of harm, we’re going to take a conservative position on that and make sure that we flag that and understand that more broadly,” Zuckerberg responded.

“But, overall, I want to make sure that we provide people with the most voice possible. I want the widest possible expression, and I don’t want anyone at our company to make any decisions based on the — the political ideology of the content.”