Making good on a last week's promise to hash it out, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg yesterday met with conservative leaders from around the country who have accused the advertising company of suppressing conservative news in its "trending topics" section. The Chronicle reports that prominent members of the conservative media were in attendance, including successful blowhard Glenn Beck. The meeting was either "productive" or "disturbing," depending on who you asked.
The confab was held at Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters, and reportedly had 17 representatives of the conservative media in attendance. On the company's side was Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, VP Joel Kaplan, and board member (and Trump delegate) Peter Thiel.
New York Daily News columnist S.E. Cupp, who attended the meeting, told the Chron that Facebook representatives "were very clear to acknowledge that there is a problem and the problem is a serious one."
Indeed, in a Facebook post following the meeting, Zuckerberg wrote that he is aware "many conservatives don't trust that our platform surfaces content without a political bias." However, he furthered, people like Donald Trump are key to driving interactions on Facebook — consequently it makes no business sense to suppress the views of the misogynist or of his supporters.
"The reality is, conservatives and Republicans have always been an important part of Facebook," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page following the meeting. "Donald Trump has more fans on Facebook than any other presidential candidate. And Fox News drives more interactions on its Facebook page than any other news outlet in the world."
CNN reports that other than Beck and Cupp, luminaries such as Jim DeMint, Dana Perino, and Tucker Carlson were in attendance. "It did not, to me, feel like a photo op," Cupp told CNN after the meeting. "I got a very strong sense of concern and curiosity about our take on this problem."
Beck, interestingly, had a different read on the meeting — writing on Medium that he found it "deeply disturbing." "I sat through a meeting that, to me, felt like I was attending a Rainbow Coalition meeting, that people (not me) had come with a list of demands," he wrote. "What happened to us? When did we become them?"
I looked around the room, I heard the complaints, I listened to the perspectives, and not a single person in the room shared evidence of any wrongdoing. [...] It was like affirmative action for conservatives. When did conservatives start demanding quotas AND diversity training AND less people from Ivy League Colleges. [...] When did we become the people who demand the Oscars add black actors based on race?
The meeting reportedly ran fifteen minutes over its scheduled hour duration. That extra fifteen minutes apparently helped sway those gathered that the Zuck wasn't out to get them after all. "It doesn't make sense for our mission or our business to suppress political content or prevent anyone from seeing what matters most to them," wrote Zuckerberg. His business-first defense, it seems, was all the conservatives needed to hear.