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Mark Zuckerberg has off-the-record talks with conservatives after Trump threatens to sue Facebook

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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has quietly held small talk meetings and dinners with conservative journalists, commentators, and even met with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, after President Donald Trump threatened to sue the social media platform earlier this year.

Zuckerberg, held the off-the-record meetings, as well as dinners at his California homes, following Trump’s threat to sue Facebook and Google in June for what he perceived as bias towards conservatives. 

The meetings focused on ‘free expression, unfair treatment of conservatives, the appeals process for real or perceived unfair treatment, fact checking, partnerships, and privacy,’ a source familiar with the meetings told Politico.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (pictured above) has quietly held small talk meetings and dinners with conservative journalists, commentators, and even met with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, after President Donald Trump threatened to sue the social media platform

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (pictured above) has quietly held small talk meetings and dinners with conservative journalists, commentators, and even met with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, after President Donald Trump threatened to sue the social media platform

President Donald Trump (above) has complained about alleged biases against conservatives on social media, and said the government should sue Facebook and Google

President Donald Trump (above) has complained about alleged biases against conservatives on social media, and said the government should sue Facebook and Google

The reaction to the outreach, at least for some of the sources who spoke with Politico, appeared to make the kind of progress the tech entrepreneur was looking for. 

‘My perception of him was more positive than I anticipated,’ this person said. ‘He was receptive and thoughtful.’

‘I’ve always thought that he wanted to make things right by conservatives,’ said another person familiar with the dinners. ‘I think he’s been genuine in hoping that might happen. Sometimes I think the headwinds are so strong in Palo Alto that I don’t think even he can succeed.’

Zuckerberg met with Graham earlier this year, who at a 2018 congressional hearing charged Facebook had become a monopoly. A spokesman confirmed the meeting with the South Carolina senator.  

Zuckerberg met with US Senator Lindsey Graham (pictured above) earlier this year, who at a 2018 congressional hearing charged Facebook had become a monopoly. A spokesman confirmed the meeting with the South Carolina Republican

Zuckerberg met with US Senator Lindsey Graham (pictured above) earlier this year, who at a 2018 congressional hearing charged Facebook had become a monopoly. A spokesman confirmed the meeting with the South Carolina Republican

There also were meetings between Zuckerberg and Fox News host Tucker Carlson, a critic who has called him ‘the death of free speech in America,’ and conservative radio talk host Hugh Hewitt, who called for a regulatory crack down on ‘big tech bias’ against conservatives, reports Politico.

Both declined to comment.  

Among the pundits who have met with Zuckerberg is Carlson Tucker, who called the Facebook founder 'the death of free speech in America'

Among the pundits who have met with Zuckerberg is Carlson Tucker, who called the Facebook founder ‘the death of free speech in America’

Conservative radio talk host Hugh Hewitt (pictured above), who called for a regulatory crack down on 'big tech bias' against conservatives, also was among the pundits who met with Zuckerberg

Conservative radio talk host Hugh Hewitt (pictured above), who called for a regulatory crack down on ‘big tech bias’ against conservatives, also was among the pundits who met with Zuckerberg

Others at the Zuckerberg included CNN commentator Mary Katharine Ham, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, American Enterprise Institute fellow and former Washington Free Beacon editor Matt Continetti, Town Hall editor and Fox News contributor Guy Benson, and Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell, according to the person familiar with the gatherings. 

Washington Examiner chief political correspondent and Fox News contributor Byron York confirmed his attendance, but declined to disclose discuss details because the conversation was off-the-record. 

Political and Silicon Valley insiders say Zuckerberg has been hosting the dinners since July, and suspect his motives are to be friendlier with right-wing conservatives after Trump’s upset with Facebook this past June.

The president complained about alleged biases against conservatives on social media, and said the government should sue Facebook and Google. 

He alleged social media companies under the control of Democrats and that Twitter was making it difficult for followers of his has account, @realDonaldTrump, reports Bloomberg.

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President Donald Trump has long-complained publicly that social media platforms like Facebook were engaged in bias towards conservatives. The tweet above provides one example before he said in June that he wanted to sue the companies

President Donald Trump has long-complained publicly that social media platforms like Facebook were engaged in bias towards conservatives. The tweet above provides one example before he said in June that he wanted to sue the companies

‘What they did to me on Twitter is incredible,’ Trump said in the interview with Fox’s Maria Bartiromo. ‘You know I have millions and millions of followers but I will tell you they make it very hard for people to join me at Twitter and then make it very much harder for me to get out the message.’

A cybersecurity resercher and former government official based in Silicon Valley said that chatter in the tech region ‘is that Zuckerberg is very concerned about the Justice Department, under Bill Barr, bringing an enforcement action to break up the company.’ 

‘So the fear is that Zuckerberg is trying to appease the Trump administration by not cracking down on right-wing propaganda.’ 

When asked about the gatherings, Politico reports that a senior Trump administration official said ‘the White House is looking for meaningful steps from Facebook on a number of fronts,’ including ‘competition, free speech for everybody including conservatives, and privacy.’

‘Nominal outreach won’t cut it,’ the official said.

The list of grievances recently filed against companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon have come from both sides of the aisle: 

The companies are too big and powerful. They’re bad for privacy, public discourse, democracy and small business. They’re spying on us, contributing to economic inequality and hooking us and our children on addictive, useless services.

The companies themselves object to these characterizations, though how loudly they object varies.

Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, urged Twitter to suspend President Trump’s account for violating the service’s rules, while Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri was among those conservatives who say they have been unfairly treated. 

Hawley has also said Zuckerberg should sell off its popular side businesses, WhatsApp and Instagram.

Beyond discourse and privacy, antitrust concerns have emerged as a major concern for lawmakers and candidates. 

Leading the pack has been Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who in March proposed breaking up big tech companies. 

She garnered immediate support, even from rivals such as Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who retweeted Warren for what he said was the first time. Cruz said ‘she’s right – Big Tech has way too much power to silence Free Speech.’

Since then, calling out the tech behemoths and other big corporations has been a pillar of Warren’s presidential campaign. 

Senator Bernie Sanders, another leading Democratic candidate, has also said breaking up Amazon, Google and Apple is ‘something we should definitely take a look at.’

 

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