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‘He Listened’: Al Sharpton Reveals No Promises Came Out of Meeting With Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to Discuss Political Ads

Rev. Al Sharpton brought ever-widening concerns about Facebook’s refusal to fact-check political ads to Mark Zuckerberg‘s home directly in what the civil rights activists called a “no-holds-barred meeting” Monday.

Sharpton, who spoke with Reuters in a phone interview Monday, said the meeting at Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto house lasted almost two hours and included other civil rights activists as well as Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Reuters reported.

“We told him that we feel that the exemption for politicians could be used to suppress voting, give wrong messaging and could suppress census taking,” Sharpton told the news agency.

Al Sharpton and Mark Zuckerberg
Rev. Al Sharpton met with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg this week. (Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Facebook Newsroom)

Sharpton said he initiated the meeting through a letter and Zuckerberg, now the company’s chief executive officer didn’t commit to any changes.

“He listened,” Sharpton said. “He made no firm commitments of change but he seemed open.”

A Facebook company spokesperson said in an email to Atlanta Black Star Wednesday that they’re grateful the “prominent leaders of the civil rights community took the time to attend a private dinner hosted by Mark and Sheryl.”

“They discussed a range of important issues and we look forward to continuing these conversations,” the company said.

Zuckerberg, who spoke before the House Financial Services Committee Oct. 23 to discuss plans for the social media giant’s proposed Libra cryptocurrency, was instead held to task on Capitol Hill on a range of issues, including political ads, CBS News reported.

Rep. Maxine Waters weighed in on the topic of Facebook’s politcal ad policy, specifically.

“It seems that a policy that allows politicians to lie, mislead and deceive would also allow Facebook to sell more ads to those politicians, thus making your company more money,” Waters told Zuckerberg during his congressional testimony.

Zuckerberg responded, “The very small percent of our business that is made up of political ads does not come anywhere close to justifying the controversy that this incurs.”

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked if Zuckerberg saw a potential problem with a “complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements.”

“Well congresswoman, I think lying is bad, and I think if you were to run an ad that had a lie that would be bad,” Zuckerberg responded.

He didn’t directly answer whether he would take down misleading ads.

“In a Democracy, I believe that people should be able to see for themselves what politicians that they may or may not vote for… judge their characters themselves,” Zuckerberg said.

Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk compared Zuckerberg to President Donald Trump.

“You’re both very successful businessmen. You’re both capitalists. You’re both billionaires. You both challenge the status quo,” Loudermilk said. “He calls it draining the swamp. You see it as innovation.”

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