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‘Perhaps you believe you’re above the law’: Zuckerberg grilled over Libra, false political ads, and more

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Facebook founder and CEO is warned that lawmakers have “serious concerns” about Facebook’s size and reach.

House Democrats challenged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on a number of issues Wednesday at a hearing focused primarily on the company’s efforts to develop cryptocurrency—putting the social media executive on the defensive regarding Facebook’s position on the limits of free speech in political advertising, its labor practices, and critics’ claims that the company supports housing discrimination.

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Facebook spent more than $12 million in the first nine months of 2019 to lobby the federal government to win approval of Libra, its proposed cryptocurrency, and to fight growing calls that the company should be broken up. Zuckerberg was called to appear before the House Financial Services Committee to explain why lawmakers and the public should trust Facebook.

Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) opened the hearing by accusing Zuckerberg of ruthlessly pursuing more power through Facebook, which is now used by about a third of the world population, at the expense of its users’ privacy and other rights.

“Perhaps you believe you’re above the law, and its appears that you are aggressively increasing the size of your company and are willing to step on or over anyone—including your competitors, women, people of color, your own users, and even our democracy to get what you want,” said Waters. “Given the company’s size and reach it should be clear why we have serious concerns about your plans to establish a global digital currency.”

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Part of the company’s threat to democracy, Waters said, comes from allowing factually incorrect political advertising to appear on the platform. Earlier this month, Facebook came under fire for allowing an ad on the site for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign which included falsehoods.

Zuckerberg told the committee that, rather than fact-checking political advertisements before they’re able to appear on the platform, independent fact-checkers review content after it is distributed widely.

CNN notably refused to allow the same video to air on its network, citing falsehoods about the whistleblower complaint which led to the House’s impeachment inquiry including the use of the word ‘coup’ “to describe a constitutionally prescribed legal process.”

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) pointedly asked Zuckerberg whether the company has determined the limits of free political speech.

“Would I be able to run advertisements on Facebook targeting Republicans in primaries saying that they voted for the Green New Deal?” she asked. “I mean, if you’re not fact checking political advertisements, I’m just trying to understand the bounds here. What’s fair game?”

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Zuckerberg replied that he wasn’t sure whether such an ad would be permitted to appear on Facebook.

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Critics of Facebook say the company should acknowledge that it’s used by many as a news publisher and hold itself accountable for the content that appears on the platform.

Zuckerberg also came under fire at Wednesday’s hearing for Facebook’s algorithm and the company’s practice of optimizing ads by sending them to specific demographics—a policy which critics say exacerbates housing discrimination and is reminiscent of the redlining which segregated neighborhoods in the 20th century.

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“Technological innovations have created new opportunities for discrimination in U.S. housing markets that may be harder to spot, investigate, and attribute to any particular individual when proprietary algorithms are making decisions that have systemic impacts,” wrote the committee ahead of the hearing.

“You have even enabled the practice of this dreaded redlining of certain communities, restricting them from housing and employment opportunities,” said Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.). “We in Congress have worked hard for the past 50 years to eliminate the very racial discrimination practices that your platform is guilty of.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) drove the discussion back to Libra and Zuckerberg’s claim that the cryptocurrency would help the 1.7 billion people around the world who cannot afford to use banks for their financial needs.

“I know you understand the tech and business case for Libra, you have the stats, but I’m not sure you understand the source of the pain that millions are experiencing, that are experiencing underbanking and credit invisibility,” Pressley said.

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“This is not about banking costs,” she added. “This is about a tsunami of hurt that millions are experiencing because of a $1.6 trillion student debt crisis, because of rising healthcare costs and people having to use GoFundMe pages to pay medical bills.”

“You represent the power,” the congresswoman said, “but I don’t think you understand the pain.”

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Trump unleashes yet another maddening scandal as he opens the door to Saudi Arabian interference

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I don’t often talk about how mad I am. I don’t often talk about how mad I am, because talking often about how mad I am prevents me from speaking clearly and rationally. I want to speak clearly and rationally. There is so much need for speaking clearly and rationally amid the endless streams of waste and filth polluting our public discourse.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

But I can’t speak clearly and rationally at the expense of morality. Morality often begins with a feeling. The Gospels tell us of Jesus looking on the poor—he could hear and smell their misery—and he was “moved with pity.” But another way of putting it, another way of translating ?????????????, is that the rabbi felt compassion “in his guts.

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US Supreme Court lets stand Kentucky law with abortion restrictions

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The US Supreme Court on Monday let stand a Kentucky law that requires doctors to make patients seeking an abortion look at fetal images taken by echocardiogram and to listen to their heartbeat.

Without explanation, as is customary, the top US court refused to hear a suit challenging the state law, which was passed in 2017.

The law requires doctors to show patients echocardiogram images of the fetus and describe to them its size and organs and have them listen to its heartbeat if it is detectable, even if the patient objects.

Kentucky's authorities justified the measure as needed to obtain the patient's "informed consent" before proceeding with an abortion.

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Chris Wallace shreds Ken Starr: Trump’s scandal ‘a much bigger issue than whether Bill Clinton lied about sex’

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Fox News host Chris Wallace argued that the deeds President Donald Trump is accused of are more serious to the country than President Bill Clinton's actions, who was impeached for lying about sex.

During a break in impeachment hearings on Monday, Wallace called out Ken Starr's "characterization of this process and what we heard today... he said that the presentation against the president is narrow, prosecutors look through the world through dirty windows, it's slanted."

"And you know, it just seems to me -- and Ken, I see you there on the screen so I'll be talking directly to you -- when you compare this to the Clinton impeachment, which was basically about whether the president had lied under oath about sex," Wallace continued. "I'm not talking about whether this story is true or not."

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