- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2019

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went to Capitol Hill to answer questions from a socialist, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, about free speech — and it went pretty much as could be expected. Explaining the concept of American freedom of speech to a socialist is about as fruitful as commanding a brick wall to move.

But as far as teaching moments go, this is an important point in American politics.

The Zuckerberg-Ocasio-Cortez exchange, as captured by C-SPAN, shows how pervasive, and even persuasive, are the lies those on the left tell in order to bring about their leftist designs.

The setting was the House Financial Services Committee. The background was a discussion of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s policing policy as it pertains to political posts and politician-tied advertising.

But the important portion of the Q&A began with this, from Ocasio-Cortez: “Umm, you announced recently that the official policy of Facebook now allows politicians to pay to spread disinformation, umm, in 2020 elections and in the future. I just want to know how far I can push this, umm, in the next year.”

This is Deceit Number One — that Facebook’s political advertisement policy specifically allows for the spread of “disinformation.” That’s Ocasio-Cortez’s interpretation of ads she disagrees with — specifically, ads that paint the left in a negative light.

For the record, the actual Facebook policy allows for “ads about social issues, elections or politics.”

Let the Ocasio-Cortez theatrics begin.

“Under your policy, you know, using Census data as well, could I pay to target predominantly black ZIP codes and advertise to them the incorrect election date?” Ocasio-Cortez asked.

No, congresswoman.

“But you said you’re not going to fact-check,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

No, congresswoman — Facebook’s policy prohibits ads that incite violence or that cause harm, such as voter suppression.

“So there is some thresh-hold where you will fact-check political advertisements, is that what you’re telling me?” she asked.

Yes, congresswoman.

“Could I run ads targeting Republicans in primaries saying that they voted for the Green New Deal?” she asked.

Ocasio-Cortez continued: “I mean if you’re not fact-checking political advertisements, I’m just trying to understand the bounds here, what’s fair game.”

OK, congresswoman.

“So, you don’t know if I’ll be able to do that,” she said. Pause for effect. Swoop hair and turn head, stern expression on face.

“Umm, do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?” she asked.

Zuckerberg’s response: “Well congresswoman, I think lying is bad, and I think that if you were to run an ad that had a lie, that would be bad. That’s different from it being … in our position the right thing to do to prevent your constituents … from seeing that you had lied.”

Beware, America. Zuckerberg is quite right here.

Pay attention to where Ocasio-Cortez is leading.

“So we can — so you won’t take down lies, or you will take down lies,” she said. “I think it’s just a pretty simple yes or no. I’m not talking about spin, I’m talking about actual disinformation.”

And from Zuckerberg: “In a democracy, I believe that people should be able to see for themselves what politicians that they may or may not vote for … and judge their character for themselves.”

Again, Zuckerberg is right. It’s transparency America needs — not government controls.

But Ocasio-Cortez interrupted: “So, you won’t take them down. You may flag that it’s wrong, but you won’t take it down.”

As if it were Facebook’s job to censor political ads.

As if were Facebook’s position in society to do the government’s bidding and censor political ads. As if it were government’s right to intrude on political speech of private companies and private citizens.

Ocasio-Cortez’s questioning shows a chilling march toward government-sponsored, government-pressed, even government-mandated censorship of the First Amendment — and she’s deftly going after Facebook, a company that’s come under conservative fire, to accomplish this design. She’s counting on conservative ire with Facebook to blind conservatives to the fact she’s kinking the First Amendment.

But in the hearing of Zuckerberg versus Ocasio-Cortez, it’s Zuckerberg who’s right. Political advertisements are constitutionally protected forms of speech. The government has no business sticking its nose into this area.

Ocasio-Cortez, wide-eyed and with feigned-innocence, was simply laying a snare for Zuckerberg that would open the door for government control of political advertisements — of political speech — on social media.

Just because she’s set the snare doesn’t mean the American people have to fall into it, though.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.

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