Last month, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram banned Donald Trump from their platforms, with Google, Apple, and Amazon going on to de-platform Parler after it turned into a safe haven for his supporters. The unprecedented censorship against the now former president follows years of claims of bias against conservatives by the tech giants.
Project Veritas has published nearly two hours of footage from what it says are internal Facebook Q&A sessions from 7 and 21 January showing CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives attacking Trump, praising Joe Biden, and promising to “work with” the new administration “on some of their top priorities.”
The footage was said to have been gleaned from an insider working at the tech company, and posted on the right-leaning non-profit’s YouTube page.
“In his first day, President Biden already issued a number of executive orders on areas that we as a company really care quite deeply about,” Zuckerberg says in a video dated 21 January, noting that these areas include immigration, “ending restrictions on travel from Muslim majority countries, as well as other executive orders on climate, in advancing racial justice and equity.”
“The past few weeks have certainly been a very difficult time in our nation. But we now have a new president, and we also have the first woman and the first person of colour as our vice-president in the history of our country,” the tech billionaire adds, saying Kamala Harris’s swearing-in was a “reminder that despite the challenges that we are facing as a country, we all have so much to be proud of.”
Zuckerberg goes on to praise Biden for a “very good” and “powerful” inaugural address. “As someone who’s running a company with a mission of bringing the world together, I think that his focus on unity is basically exactly what we need to hear,” he said.
“I am looking forward to opportunities where Facebook is going to be able to work together with this new administration on some of their top priorities, starting with the COVID response,” the CEO says.
In the video, Zuckerberg also praises Jeff Zients, the former Facebook board of directors member tapped by Biden to serve as the administration’s coronavirus coordinator, saying he has a “lot of confidence in his leadership and his ability to make progress on this.”
Zients was one of dozens of executives from companies including Facebook, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google co-founder Eric Schmidt’s Schmidt Ventures, Amazon, Dell, LinkedIn, Uber, and others to be tapped by Biden for positions in the new administration. Late last year, Reuters reported on big tech’s efforts to lobby the new administration into taking policy positions that benefit them.
Facebook ‘Hopes’ and ‘Expects’ Its Oversight Board to Uphold Trump Ban
In the 21 January video, Nick Clegg, former UK deputy prime minister and Facebook’s VP for global affairs, tells Zuckerberg that he “hopes” and “expects” that the social media giant’s so-called oversight board will “uphold” the “well justified decision" to ban Trump from the platform following the Capitol riots.
“There has been quite a lot of disquiet expressed by many leaders around the world from the president of Mexico to [opposition vlogger] Alexei Navalny in Russia to Chancellor Angela Merkel and others saying ‘well this shows that private companies have got too much power, and they should only be making these decisions in a way that is framed by democratically agreed rules.’ We agree with that. Mark, you’ve been very clear about that,” Clegg says, claiming that the problem is that these “democratically agreed rules don’t exist,” and that the company must make decisions on who to ban or censor “in real time.”
The gushing praise for President Biden in the 21 January video is a stark contrast from the leaked Q&A dated 7 January. In that video, Zuckerberg spent the first part of the conference call attacking Trump over his alleged attempts to “use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden.”
“Yesterday we moved quickly to remove the posts by the president that violated our policies, including a video of his in which he expressed support for the people causing the violence,” Zuckerberg says, praising the company’s decision to scrub content posted by Trump and suspend his account.
“We believe the risk of allowing the president to continue to use the services during this period are too much,” he adds, announcing that the company would indefinitely block the president’s account, “until at least the transition of power is complete.”
In the video, Facebook VP of integrity Guy Rosen pointed to the tools at Facebook’s disposal to target the president’s supporters, including tools to automatically detect and freeze comments in threads said to contain “hate speech” or calls to violence. “These are all things we’ve built over the past three-four years as part of our investments into the integrity space our efforts to protect the election,” he explained.
Monika Bickert, head of global policy management, went on to comment on activities by teams of Facebook employees in “tracking the developments around protests planned in DC and elsewhere around the United States, making sure that we were doing anything that we could to find and remove any content that violated our policies. Those teams are working together in our virtual election operations centre.”
Conservative-leaning officials and media, and users on both sides of the political spectrum in the US have long accused Facebook and other tech companies of arbitrary censorship, and of unfairly categorising views outside the liberal-leaning corporate centrist mainstream as “hate speech.”
Facebook has not commented on the leaking of the materials obtained by Project Veritas or their authenticity.