NBC’s Holt Fears Facebook Will Let Politicians Like Trump ‘Lie, Lie, Lie’

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During an interview with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg aired on Monday’s Today show, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt feared that the social network’s refusal to censor political ads would give politicians like President Trump the “green light” to “lie, lie, lie” on the platform.

After hyping how “Facebook was caught on its back foot when Russia launched its interference campaign and efforts in 2016” and “has invested heavily in people and technology to proactively identify nefarious efforts in the election process,” Holt noted that “foreign interference is hardly the only election issue the company is currently facing.”

 

 

“The move to call out foreign actors comes as Facebook is embroiled in controversy over political ads at home, criticized for refusing to pull a Donald Trump ad that contained false claims about Joe Biden. Zuckerberg saying it’s not their role to fact-check candidate claims,” Holt worried.

He then pressed Zuckerberg: “Do you feel like you’re giving a green light to politicians that lie, lie, lie?”

The tech CEO replied: “No, look – I believe that it is important for people to be able to hear and see what politicians are saying. I think that when they do that, that speech will be heavily scrutinized by other journalists, by other people.”

More of Holt’s interview with Zuckerberg will air on Monday’s NBC Nightly News.

On Friday, both the NBC and CBS expressed disappointment over Zuckerberg refusing to censor political speech on Facebook, parroting complaints from 2020 Democratic candidates who wanted Trump ads banned.

With all the media demands for Facebook to fact-check Trump, none of the coverage has focused on the accuracy of ads from Democrats.

Here is a full transcript of the October 21 segment on the Today show:

7:11 AM ET

HODA KOTB: Also this morning, with the U.S. presidential election just over a year away, Facebook is under growing scrutiny as foreign actors are once again expected to try to interfere with the process using social media. Lester Holt is in California, where he sat down with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for an exclusive interview and an update on what the company plans to do about it. Hey, Lester good morning.

LESTER HOLT: Hey, Hoda, good morning. By his own admission, Mark Zuckerberg tells me Facebook was caught on its back foot when Russia launched its interference campaign and efforts in 2016. Since then, he says the company has invested heavily in people and technology to proactively identify nefarious efforts in the election process, both here and around the world. But foreign interference is hardly the only election issue the company is currently facing.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Mark Zuckerberg One-On-One; Talks Election Interference Strategy in Lester Holt Exclusive]

Inside this war room, a team of Facebook analysts monitor elections around the world. They’re looking for fake accounts, suspicious patterns, any sign of election tampering. The company, Mark Zuckerberg tells me, is trying to avoid a repeat of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: In the last year, we’ve disrupted more than 50 different campaigns from different nation states trying to interfere in elections.

HOLT: Later today, Facebook will unveil several new election integrity measures built around transparency, including labeling media outlets that are “state-controlled.”  

ZUCKERBERG: I think it’s really important that people can see for themselves when media is actually operating as an organ of the government and is being editorially controlled there.

HOLT: The move to call out foreign actors comes as Facebook is embroiled in controversy over political ads at home, criticized for refusing to pull a Donald Trump ad that contained false claims about Joe Biden. Zuckerberg saying it’s not their role to fact-check candidate claims.

Do you feel like you’re giving a green light to politicians that lie, lie, lie?

ZUCKERBERG: No, look – I believe that it is important for people to be able to hear and see what politicians are saying. I think that when they do that, that speech will be heavily scrutinized by other journalists, by other people.

HOLT: Last week, in a speech, the Facebook founder also doubled down on his belief that the platform should be centered on free expression, contrasting it with social media censorship in China.

ZUCKERBERG: I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy.

HOLT: Criticized by some as a false choice, but criticism is something Mark Zuckerberg has gotten used to.

ZUCKERBERG: I get that a lot of people are angry at us. Part of growing up for me has just been realizing that it is more important to be understood than it is to be liked. And I believe that very strongly. And I do think that people can make up their own minds about me or the work that we’re doing, but this is who I am.

HOLT: And Mark Zuckerberg’s confidence in this next election, he says, is due to their changed approach from being reactive to now more proactive. He also credited his confidence in more than 35,000 people, he says, are working on security and a budget greater than the whole revenue of the company when it went public. We’ll send it back to you guys now.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Alright, Lester.

KOTB: Thank you. You can see more of Lester’s interview with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg tonight on NBC Nightly News.

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