In Brief

What Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked Mark Zuckerberg

New York lawmaker grills Facebook chief on Cambridge Analytica and far-right

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg faced a grilling from the Democrat lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during a hearing in front of the US House of Representatives financial services committee.

New York Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and other lawmakers asked tough questions over the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Facebook’s position on political advertising.

Setting the scene for what The Guardian described as a “gruelling examination”, Ocasio-Cortez said: “I think we need to kind of dig into your past behaviour and Facebook’s past behaviour with respect to our democracy.”

When she asked when Zuckerberg and Facebook became aware of the controversial British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, he claimed it was “around the time [the news] became public... around March of 2018”. Ocasio-Cortez asked if anybody on Zuckerberg’s leadership team knew about the firm prior to the report published by The Guardian in December 2015.

“I believe some folks were tracking it internally,” Zuckerberg said. “I do think I was aware of Cambridge Analytica as an entity earlier, but I don’t know if I was tracking how they were using Facebook specifically.”

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She also asked Zuckerberg about “a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements” and his “dinner parties with far-right figures”. He avoided responding directly, as he did when she asked if Facebook would remove dishonest political ads.

“So, you won’t take down lies or you will take down lies? I think that’s just a pretty simple yes or no,” she asked in what the BBC called a “fractious” exchange. 

The Facebook chief was also challenged over the safety of the social network’s proposed digital currency Libra. He said Libra was a prime example of “American innovation” and could help more than a billion adults around the world without a bank account.

“There is a reason we care about this and that’s because Facebook is about putting power into people’s hands,” he claimed.

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