Senator Josh Hawley claims he learned in a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg that China shut Facebook out of China. This is patently not true. I do not know if the senator is willfully being dishonest or simply misheard. But it was Facebook that rejected going into mainland China (the company has operated in Hong Kong, which is outside the “Great Firewall of China,” but not mainland China). For all the company’s faults, and there are many, the company chose to avoid entangling itself with communists when it could have made billions by joining them. The company should be applauded. In fact, just this past week, Facebook shut Hong Kong police out of WhatsApp after the police began using the app to target protestors in Hong Kong.
Let me be clear — it is absolutely a fact that this was Facebook’s choice, not China’s. If Senator Hawley misunderstood, he can now understand. There are plenty of reasons he might want to criticize the company, but that is not one of them.
Senator Hawley went public with his claim after this address from Mark Zuckerberg where he made Facebook’s refusal to go into China an example of its commitment to free speech. Some conservatives have started an outside group to take on social media companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. They have reason to be suspicious of big tech, including Facebook. But I think this is an area we need to encourage other companies to be like Facebook.
On the issue of Facebook itself, I have concerns with the company. But, for the past two years, I have invited Facebook to sponsor the Resurgent Gathering and have its executives on stage with me to answer conservative concerns. They have not only been willing to participate but sat on stage and answered my questions. Facebook has admitted it makes mistakes and I do think there are progressive biases within the company that cause it problems.
It is worth pointing out to my conservative friends who dislike and distrust Facebook that progressive activists and reporters share their concerns. Ironically, the left hates Facebook because it does not censor the right. Facebook is currently under withering criticism from progressive activists for not shutting down President Trump’s advertising and for allowing conservatives to use the platform effectively. Likewise, the left continues to believe Facebook allowed the Russians to steal the election for President Trump.
I would distinguish Facebook from Twitter, which I have not even considered asking to sponsor my conference or appear on stage. Facebook has repeatedly shown itself to be open to criticism and to be willing to take corrective actions. Twitter is mostly maliciously hostile to conservatives and not open to anything other than woke politics.
I have concerns with Google as well. I think there is no harm in pushing these companies from the right. Google’s employees themselves believe if various intersectional groups do not participate in shaping Google’s algorithm that the algorithm will not account for those groups. By these employees’ own logic, we should be deeply concerned that Google is increasingly hostile internally to conservatives.
That leads me back to Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg spoke yesterday at Georgetown and gave a pretty strong defense of free speech. The proof of his commitment will be in his actions and, given other tech companies, I’d trust him to get it more right than many of the others, including Apple. But time will tell.
I do think it is important that we all note a few things. First, Facebook is viewed as the enemy by a political class that only six years ago was giddy at progressive dominance on the platform. Now that conservatives use of the platform matches or exceeds progressive usage, the political class is turning on Facebook.
Second, the media decided to turn to Facebook as a revenue generator and it did not work out so well. Consequently, much of the media hate Facebook now because the media blame Facebook for the media’s own mistakes and failures to understand technology.
Third, Facebook does have people within the company who give the company a bad name. It needs to deal with employees who clearly do have malicious biases against conservatives. That was on display when prominent Facebook employees turned out to be friends of Bret Kavanaugh and progressive Facebook employees wanted their heads on pikes. These people undermine conservative willingness to trust Facebook means what it says.
Fourth, Facebook has literally been the only tech company to stand up for conservatives against the social justice mob. While conservatives have issues with which they can criticize Facebook, it is a fact that Facebook did not cave to the leftwing mob and pull that Nancy Pelosi video even though its peers in the social media and tech space did. Likewise, Facebook has not pulled President Trump’s campaign ads despite inordinate media and progressive activist pressure.
If Senator Hawley wants to criticize Facebook, please get him to at least add those two data points to the list of good things along with choosing not to do business with mainland China and blocking the Hong Kong police from WhatsApp.
From my own experience dealing with the company, I have found their executives willing to answer tough questions, admit mistakes, and try to do better. They are far more open than some of their technology competitors.
Many of these technology competitors have not hesitated to move into communist mainland China and are even now selling their souls to communists. That Facebook has not of its own volition makes me willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.