Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted his company messed up with a recent "fact check" that labeled a pro-life group's pro-life views as factually incorrect based on the views of two abortion doctors, a Republican senator said Thursday.
"He said that they made a mistake, that there was clearly bias," Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) told reporters after meeting with Zuckerberg in his office. "Those were his words. He said there was clearly bias in the Live Action decision, that they were wrong to have censored Live Action, that there was a problem with their supposed independent fact-checker, that he's very concerned about it."
Hawley made the comments to a group of reporters in the hallway outside of his Senate office after meeting with the Silicon Valley CEO. Zuckerberg left immediately after the meeting and did not stop to take reporters' questions.
In August, Facebook hit pro-life advocacy group Live Action with a "false" rating after a "fact check" on two videos that claimed abortion is not medically necessary. The social media platform's "fact-checking" mechanism made the determination based on the viewpoints of abortionists Robyn Schickler and Daniel Grossman. Schickler went so far as to say that "all reasons for deciding to seek abortion care are valid; no one reason is better than another."
Hawley was one of a group of Republican senators who sent Zuckerberg a strongly worded, public letter in response to the "fact check" last week.
"No reasonable person would describe Grossman or Schickler as neutral or objective when it comes to the issue of abortion, yet Facebook relied on their rating to suppress and censor a pro-life organization with more than 3 million followers," the lawmakers wrote.
After news of the letter broke, Live Action says Facebook reached out to them to say that it would remove the "fact checks" and that the network that certifies the company's third-party fact-checkers "has opened an investigation to determine whether the fact-checkers who rated this content did so by following procedures designed to ensure impartiality."
After Thursday's meeting, Hawley added that the tech CEO also admitted to him that bias is a problem that the company has "struggled with for years" internally and that, while they're working on the issue, "they still have a lot to do."
However, Hawley said he was skeptical of Zuckerberg's response: "This is the same sort of song and dance we hear from Facebook every time it gets caught, whether its taking people's data without telling them, it's always, 'Oh, we made a mistake; we'll try to do better in the future.'"
"So I said, 'Why don't you prove it? Why don't you submit to an independent, third-party audit on content moderation?,'" the senator recalled. "Open your books up. Don't just go out and do focus groups with people. Don't go do public opinion surveys. Open your books, make your employees available to provide info to actual independent auditors and then make it public. Make the whole thing public.
"I think that would show good faith on their part; it would show confidence in their procedures," Hawley said, noting that Zuckerberg told him that the company is currently "trying to put that in place."
Hawley said the two also discussed antitrust concerns about the company as well as the problem of social media addiction and the company's privacy practices.