Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, under fire for allowing President Trump to post inflammatory statements on his platform, tells Axios there's no truth to whispers that the two have a secret understanding.
Why it matters: Zuckerberg, facing a growing ad boycott from brands that say Facebook hasn't done enough to curtail hate speech, has become increasingly public in criticizing Trump. "I’ve heard this speculation, too, so let me be clear: There's no deal of any kind," he told Axios, calling the idea "pretty ridiculous."
- The CEO panned the administration's coronavirus response during a live interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci last week.
The context: Facebook has removed Trump ads and posts at least five times going back to 2018, for reasons that include "targeting personal attributes" and copyright violation.
- Zuckerberg pointed out that "under this administration, we've faced record fines of $5 billion, are under antitrust investigation by multiple agencies, and have been targeted by an executive order to strip protections in Section 230," which shields tech companies from liability for content on their platforms.
I asked Zuckerberg about Trump after the CEO told a companywide Q&A on Thursday, in remarks obtained by Axios:
- "One specific critique that I've seen is that there are a lot of people who've said that maybe we're too sympathetic or too close in some way to the Trump administration."
- "I just want to push back on that a bit," Zuckerberg told employees. "[W]e need to separate out the fact of giving people some space for discourse, from the positions that we have individually."
- Zuckerberg went on to cite many disagreements with Trump, including immigration, climate change and "his divisive and inflammatory rhetoric."
Axios and others have reported on private conversations between Trump and Zuckerberg, and even a White House dinner.
- "I accepted the invite for dinner because I was in town and he is the president of the United States," Zuckerberg said. "I also had multiple meals and meetings with President Obama ... including hosting an event for him at Facebook HQ."
- "I also believe deeply in giving people a voice, even when I disagree with them," Zuckerberg added. "I believe in a broad definition of free expression, especially around political speech."
A White House official told me Trump "has always respected Zuckerberg’s strong pro-First Amendment position."
- "He’s entitled to his position, as are the tens of millions of Trump supporters on Facebook."