Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday said that having dinner with conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro is simply “part of learning” from people with “a wide range of viewpoints” — something he thinks more people would benefit from.
Zuckerberg made the comment in a Facebook post shortly after Politico reported he’d been courting right-wing commentators and journalists for months by hosting off-the-record dinners and informal chats. The outreach comes as Zuckerberg looks to “cultivate friends on the right,” Politico reported, at a time when major social media companies face routine criticism from President Trump and other Republicans.
Aside from Carlson and Shapiro, Politico reported Zuckerberg had also met with Sen. Lindsey Graham, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, CNN commentator Mary Katherine Ham and Washington Free Beacon editor Matt Continetti, among others. Zuckerberg did not confirm or deny any of the commentators had been his guest in his brief post.
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“To be clear, I have dinners with lots of people across the spectrum on lots of different issues all the time,” Zuckerberg said. “Meeting new people and hearing from a wide range of viewpoints is part of learning. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you do!”
Facebook, like other Silicon Valley giants, has been criticized by many on the right as a left-leaning company that disproportionally targets conservatives. Facebook banned a number of right-wing commentators, including Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones, earlier this year for violating its policies on “dangerous individuals and organizations”; the company also banned Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan at the same time. Only a few weeks later in May, the White House launched a new online tool allowing people to report “political bias” on social media.
“I’m under no illusions that he’s a conservative,” one person familiar with Zuckerberg’s off-the-record told Politico, “but I think he does care about some of our concerns.”
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At the same time, Zuckerberg and Facebook have been skewered by many on the left, with presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren being perhaps the company’s loudest critic. In March, Warren compared the current tech landscape to a modern day Gilded Age, where smaller companies are unable to compete with the major players. Warren proposed breaking up Facebook, Amazon and Google, saying “we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor.” Warren’s relationship with Facebook grew even icier soon after, when Facebook briefly pulled her ads calling for the company’s breakup.
Warren and Facebook locked horns yet again this past weekend, when she intentionally lied in an ad running on the platform. To Warren, this showed Facebook needs to better police its political ads. The company countered, saying it didn’t want to censor political candidates.