Blackburn grills Zuckerberg on social media bowing to foreign governments

November 17, 2020 

Sen. Marsha Blackburn accused Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg of prioritizing "profit over principle" by stifling dissidents in foreign countries when the government asks.

When asked whether Facebook had shut down users who had spoken out against their government, Zuckerberg repeatedly responded: "We try to follow all local laws."

Noting that Facebook has 60 million users in Communist Vietnam, Blackburn, R-Tenn., asked Zuckerberg if Facebook had shut down a Vietnamese dissident after he'd criticized the government's land policy.

"I'm not familiar with all the details of that but I believe we may have done that," Zuckerberg said. "In general, we try to follow the local laws of different countries,"

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"You kept him off for three months," Blackburn said.

Blackburn pointed out that Facebook had also taken down photos of the Prophet Mohammed after the Turkish government ordered it to do so, in order to avoid risking losing 40 million users in the country. In Russia, the Tennessee Republican said Facebook had agreed to take down posts in support of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.

"Do you think it's Facebook's job to comply with state-sponsored censorship so it can keep operating, doing business and selling ads in that country?" Blackburn asked Zuckerberg.

"In general we try to follow the laws in every country we operate and do business," the CEO repeated.

"I think that you've prioritized profit over principle," Blackburn said.

She also promised that Section 230 reforms would "take away this liability shield you have turned into an opaque wall."

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Section 230 has been pivotal in the rise of today's social media by allowing Internet service providers and Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others to be shielded from liability from content posted on their platforms by third parties in most cases.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

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Blackburn said that the Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act was ready for markup and would rein in some of these protections.

Zuckerberg along with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey faced fire from Republicans on Tuesday over accusations of conservative censorship. Blackburn questioned why she had been "slapped with" an elections flag sticker for slamming the Trump Accountability Project.

"The Trump Accountability Project exists to blacklist Americans who have served in the Trump administration and prevent them from gaining future employment," Blackburn said. "In communist China, in Putin's Russia, in totalitarian states, the government regularly will issue a blacklist of their enemies. Enemies of the state are banned from getting a job ... this seems disturbing it would be happening here in this country,"

Zuckerberg responded: "I generally agree that people should not be discriminated against because of political belief."

"In a Facebook post I wrote, and I quote: 'The Trump Accountability Project is the epitome of cancel culture," Blackburn said. "Our nation has long benefited from robust pol debate ... Nothing was said about the election or the results either directly or indirectly but somehow I got slapped with your elections flag sticker"

The Trump Accountability Project had aimed to "make sure those members of the Trump administration responsible for loosening the guardrails of our democracy are not rewarded with book deals, TV contracts, or six-figure salaries in the private sector based on that experience."

The project was abruptly shut down last week. "In the spirit of the President-elect's call to build a more united country, this project will no longer be active," a statement from the project said.

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