On the eve of a Big Tech antitrust hearing, citing video evidence dug up by Project Veritas, a Republican congressman has referred Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to the Justice Department for lying to Congress about political bias.
Zuckerberg allegedly made “materially false statements to Congress while under oath” during the April 10-11 joint hearings in 2018, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) wrote in a letter addressed to Attorney General William Barr on Monday.
While on those occasions the Facebook CEO “repeatedly and categorically denied any bias against conservative speech, persons, policies, or politics” and “dismissed the suggestion that Facebook exercises any form of editorial manipulation,” recent reports from Project Veritas have shown “ample evidence of such bias and manipulation,” Gaetz wrote.
According to undercover footage and whistleblower interviews, Facebook moderators “chose to eliminate otherwise-allowable content from the platform and from public view simply due to its political orientation,” Gaetz added. He noted that such behavior falls outside the “good faith” provision of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives online platforms liability protections.
Rep. Gaetz criminal referral for Zuckerberg comes on the heels of undercover recordings released by @Project_Veritas featuring FB content moderators like Lara Kontakos who said “If someone is wearing a MAGA hat, I'm going to delete them for terrorism” pic.twitter.com/qA83x3Cx5V— James O'Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII) July 27, 2020
Back in May, President Donald Trump issued an executive order instructing the DOJ to enforce Section 230 with regard to that original meaning, noting “good faith” should not apply to practices that are “deceptive” or “pretextual,” inconsistent with their own terms of service, and used to stifle viewpoints with which they disagree.
Lying to Congress is no small matter, provided the DOJ moves on the referral. Political operative Roger Stone was recently sentenced to four years in prison on such charges, in connection with the ‘Russiagate’ probe, before Trump commuted his sentence.
The letter is a cold shower for Zuckerberg, coming less than 48 hours before he is due to testify before the House Subcommittee for Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law about the power of Big Tech. Gaetz is one of the Republican members of the subcommittee, and a prominent Trump ally in the House.
Wednesday’s virtual hearing is unprecedented because it will feature the CEOs of major US tech companies; in addition to Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are also expected to testify.
Zuckerberg has postponed the revelation of Facebook’s quarterly earnings for after the hearing, and plans to argue that any regulation of US tech companies only helps China, Bloomberg reported citing anonymous sources from within the company.
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