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Facebook Reportedly Balked At Removing Content Silicon Valley Employees Decided Was Misinformation

Chris White on February 20, 2020

Facebook’s top official in the company’s Washington, D.C., office pushed back on plans to nix what employees in California said was misinformation, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Facebook was in the process of removing content after the 2016 election that company regulars said contained fake news before top official Joel Kaplan, a Republican, demurred on the idea, the report noted.

Kaplan allegedly pushed back on the move during a videoconference between Facebook’s Washington office and its Silicon Valley headquarters in 2016. The report relied on anonymous source accounts.

“They don’t believe it to be fake news,” Kaplan allegedly said, people familiar with the meeting told WaPo. They requested anonymity to protect business relationships.

The reference was to how conservatives might interpret the move, according to the sources.

Kaplan was a Bush-era official who heads Facebook’s D.C. office.

Kaplan has not responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Facebook is flipping over backward to appease conservatives, according to Alex Stamos, a former Facebook chief security officer.

“The Republicans in the D.C. office see themselves as a bulwark against the liberals in California,” he told WaPo.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone dismissed that characterization.

“People on both sides of the aisle continue to criticize us, but we remain committed to seeking outside perspectives and building a platform for all ideas,” Stone told WaPo after saying the company took measurements after 2016 to secure the platform.

But other Facebook employees are mirroring Stamos’s claim.

“Facebook does not speak Republican,” a former employee who worked on Facebook’s Integrity Team told WaPo. He spoke anonymously so he could freely talk about his former employer. “This is what they know about Republicans: Tell them ‘yes’ or they will hurt us.”

Part of the problem was Facebook’s concerns about being labeled anti-conservative with a new president at the helm, according to WaPo. The company invited President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to the D.C. office to discuss what to expect from the new White House occupant, the report noted, citing anonymous sources who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive topics.

Lewandowski appeared to confirm elements of the story.

“Please be sure to include the facts that I have never worked for them or been paid by them — they solicited me for a meeting and I attended,” he told WaPo.

The company’s of director of U.S. public policy, Catlin O’Neill, was one of the top Facebook officials who was upset at Lewandowski’s appearance, WaPo noted, citing sources familiar with the aftermath of the meeting. O’Neill was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s former chief of staff.

The company did not ask him to return, WaPo noted.

This angst comes amid Trump’s penchant for criticizing big tech for engaging in alleged conservative bias.

The president hosted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the White House in October 2019 alongside Facebook board member Peter Thiel. The latter is a major Trump backer and conservative inside the traditionally liberal confines of Silicon Valley.

Trump’s dinner meeting with the tech titan came after reports showed in September 2019 that the Department of Justice is preparing an anti-trust investigation targeting Facebook. The company is also facing probes from the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general.

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