Greek-American Representatives Question Facebook CEO Zuckerberg

April 13, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced questions from Greek-American Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Maryland) on April 11 about ads which appeared on the social media website during the 2016 presidential election campaign. As Independent Journal Review (IJR) reported, “According to Sarbanes, the Trump campaign had ‘about 90 times’ more ads approved during the final stretch of time before the presidential election.”

“President Trump’s campaign had an estimated 5.9 million ads approved, and Secretary Clinton had 66,000 ads,” Sarbanes said. “So that is a delta of about 90 times as much on the Trump campaign, which raises some questions about whether the ad approval processes were maybe not processed correctly or were inappropriately bypassed in the final months and weeks of the election by the Trump campaign.”

Zuckerberg “denied that special approval rights were granted to the Trump team, noting that the company applies ‘the same standard to all campaigns,’” IJR reported.

When Sarbanes repeated his question, Zuckerberg again denied that there was any difference in the services Facebook provided to the Trump campaign.

Greek- American Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Florida) questioned Zuckerberg on the removal of ads for illegal pharmacies in view of the opioid epidemic. According to the transcript of the Florida Congressman’s questions during the hearing, published by the Tampa Bay Times, Rep. Bilirakis asked, “Will you begin to take them [the illegal ads] down today?”

Zuckerberg replied, “The ads that are flagged for us we will review and take down if they violate our policies, which I believe [are] the ones you’re talking about,” adding that tools need to be built for the long term so Facebook can identify “these ads for opioids before people even have to flag them for us to review.”

Bilirakis then asked about cyberbullying, recounting the experience of one of his constituents, “in District 12 of Florida, the Tampa Bay area, came to me recently with what was a clear violation of your privacy policy. In this case, a third party organization publicly posted personal information about my constituent on his Facebook page. This included his home address, voting record, degrading photos, and other information. In my opinion, this is cyberbullying. For weeks, my constituent tried reaching out to Facebook on multiple occasions through its report feature, but the offending content remained. It was only when my office got involved that the posts were removed almost immediately for violating Facebook policy. How does Facebook’s self-reporting policy work to prevent misuse, and why did it take an act of Congress — a member of Congress — to get, again, a clear policy violation removed from Facebook? If you can answer that question, I’d appreciate it, please.”

Zuckerberg replied, “Congressman, that clearly sounds like a big issue, and something that would violate our policies. I don’t have specific knowledge of that case, but what I imagine happened given what you just said is they reported it to us, and one of the people who reviews content probably made an enforcement error. And then when, when you reached out, we probably looked at it again and realized that it violated the policies and took it down. We have a number of steps that we need to take to improve the accuracy of our enforcement.”

To which Bilirakis responded, “Absolutely.”


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