Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., assigned partial blame to Facebook for last week’s riots and indicated Friday that Congress’ response should focus on holding Big Tech accountable rather than ramping up domestic surveillance.
“He is part of this problem,” Ocasio-Cortez said, referring to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “And Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook bear partial responsibility for Wednesday’s events, period.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who spoke during a video town hall meeting, went on to argue that Facebook was “trying to do as much damage control as possible, but they knew. Not only did they know but they allowed it.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. Earlier this week, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg suggested that other platforms were to blame.
“Our enforcement’s never perfect, so I’m sure there were still things on Facebook — I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, and don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency,” she said during an interview broadcast by Reuters.
However, technology experts have said that a growing amount of evidence indicates at least some of the planning for the riots took place on Facebook.
Ocasio-Cortez’s criticism came in response to a question about how to prevent domestic terrorism without enhancing government surveillance or beefing up police resources — both of which the congresswoman opposed. Instead, she argued, White supremacists had benefited from a lack of accountability for social media giants and Trump’s decision to weaken programs targeting their operations.
As a member of the House Oversight and Finance Committees, Ocasio-Cortez will likely continue to play a role in pressing big tech for answers on the impact of their platforms on terrorist networks. During her town hall, she referred viewers to a testy exchange the two had during a financial services hearing last year.
“We knew this was a problem,” she told constituents Friday. “We knew this so far out that pre-COVID, I asked him specifically about election disinformation and its ties on Facebook to White supremacist organizations, and the ties that ‘fact-checking organizations’ had to other White supremacist outlets … and he wouldn’t answer. So, there’s a very clear link here.”
Shortly after the riots, Zuckerberg announced he was suspending Trump’s ability to post on his account.
In a statement, the social media giant defended its record of enforcement actions against a variety of groups.
“In recent days and weeks, we have also taken enforcement action consistent with our policy banning militarized social movements like the Oathkeepers and the violence-inducing conspiracy theory QAnon,” Facebook executives said in a press release. “We’ve also continued to enforce our ban on hate groups including the Proud Boys and many others. We’ve already removed over 600 militarized social movements from our platform.”
As President-elect Biden takes office, he will presumably face pressure from the left to regulate social media and a host of other issues like immigration.
At one point Friday, Ocasio-Cortez was asked about whether Democrats would make immigration reform — specifically legal protection for “Dreamers” — a priority. She noted that while she was dissatisfied with the party’s past performance on the issue, she anticipated it would unite behind it under the new administration.
“I remember seeing it, and experiencing it in real-time, and how disheartening it felt to feel like immigrant families were put on the backburner for you know, whether it’s a political reason, legislative reason, what have you,” she said.
It’s unclear exactly what she was referring to, but the Obama administration came under fire in 2014 when it decided to hold off on immigration reform until after the midterm elections.
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