Live coverage: Zuckerberg testifies before House on Facebook's Libra project

Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergComputer software pioneer John McAfee rips Facebook's Libra project Hillicon Valley: Facebook to remove mentions of potential whistleblower's name | House Dems demand FCC action over leak of location data | Dem presses regulators to secure health care data Warren campaign launches 'a calculator for the billionaires' after Gates criticism MORE on Wednesday is set to face intense scrutiny from lawmakers over the social media company’s plans for a cryptocurrency when he testifies before the House Financial Services Committee at 10 a.m.

Zuckerberg will stress to lawmakers skeptical of the project that Facebook is willing to support the delay of the company's Libra project until it has the backing of regulators around the world.

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Zuckerberg will face a number of questions centered on Libra but, in his first public testimony on Capitol Hill since 2018, he will likely face questions on a number of matters well beyond the cryptocurrency.

His appearance comes as his company is beset by a slew of controversies, including its competitive behavior, how it handles political speech, its efforts to block misinformation and its privacy practices.

According to his prepared testimony, Zuckerberg will also emphasize that the company is taking steps to mitigate discrimination on its platforms.

Follow our live coverage here.

Hearing gavels out

4:20 p.m.

Zuckerberg shook hands and chatted with several lawmakers before waking up to the dais to chat face-to-face with House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersDivides over China, fossil fuels threaten House deal to reboot Ex-Im Bank Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers unleash on Zuckerberg | House passes third election interference bill | Online extremism legislation advances in House | Google claims quantum computing breakthrough On The Money: Lawmakers hammer Zuckerberg over Facebook controversies | GOP chair expects another funding stopgap | Senate rejects Dem measure on SALT deduction cap workarounds MORE (D-Calif.) after the hearing ended.

Staffers lined the walls and press swarmed the aisles as Zuckerberg and Waters spoke intently for several minutes. He then moved on to chat with ranking member Rep. Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryTrump roasts Republicans at private fundraising event North Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats Divides over China, fossil fuels threaten House deal to reboot Ex-Im Bank MORE (R-N.C.) before leaving through the back door around 4:17 p.m., more than six hours after the hearing began.

— Emily Birnbaum

Ocasio-Cortez grills Zuckerberg over political ad policy

3:30 p.m. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSanders 'very concerned about what appears to be a coup' in Bolivia Trump celebrates resignation of Bolivia's president Sanders touts big crowds in Iowa rallies with Ocasio-Cortez MORE (D-N.Y.) grilled Zuckerberg about his company's new political ad policy.

The first-year New York lawmaker asked Zuckerberg a series of hypotheticals about what political ads candidates could run without Facebook taking them down.

"Could I pay to target predominantly black zip codes and advertise them the incorrect election date?" Ocasio-Cortez asked.

"No, you couldn't," Zuckerberg responded, emphasizing the platform's policy of intervening in political ads when they incite violence or could lead to voter suppression.

"Could I run ads targeting Republicans in primaries saying that they voted for the Green New Deal?" Ocasio-Cortez then asked.

"Congresswoman, I don't know the answer to that off the top of my head," Zuckerberg said. "I think probably."

"Do you see a problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?" Ocasio-Cortez countered.

"Congresswoman, I think lying is bad," Zuckerberg responded.

"So you will take down lies or you won't take down lies? I think this is a pretty simple yes or no," she asked again.

"It depends on the context that it shows up," the tech executive responded.

— Chris Mills Rodrigo

Zuckerberg says he would leave children's inheritance in Libra

3:10 p.m.

Zuckerberg told Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyJustice Democrats official denies that progressives struggle with electability The Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg looks to upend Democratic race Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (D-Mass.) that he would leave his children's inheritance in the Libra coin, noting that it will be "be backed one-to-one with other sovereign currencies."

"Would you leave behind your children’s inheritance in Libra?" Pressley asked. "I think it’s a fair question because you’ve proven we cannot trust you with our emails, with our phone numbers, so why should we trust you with our hard-earned money?"

When Zuckerberg began to respond, Pressley repeated her question.

"Congresswoman, I would because it will be backed one-to-one by other sovereign currencies," Zuckerberg said.

— Emily Birnbaum

Tlaib says Facebook's policies have led to 'death threats' against her

1:45 p.m.

Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibSanders: Fighting anti-Semitism 'is very personal' Bloomberg run should push Warren to the center — but won't Justice Democrats official denies that progressives struggle with electability MORE (D-Mich.) told Zuckerberg that Facebook's hands-off approach to political speech on its platform has led to "death threats in my office." 

Facebook has been facing a whirlwind of criticism over its policies to allow politicians to espouse hate speech and misinformation, which the company has argued should remain online because they are in the public interest.

But Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman in Congress, urged Zuckerberg to reconsider how those policies could lead to "actual, real violence towards people." 

Tlaib projected an image of a white man with guns standing outside of a mosque onto the committee room's monitors. She asked Zuckerberg if Facebook's policies would allow the threatening picture to remain on its platform, and then pressed him over reports that hate groups continue to organize events on the platform even after a series of policy changes barring that kind of extremism. 

"It’s very hard to police every instance of this," Zuckerberg said. "We're committed to making sure we continue to invest more and do a better job here." 

"We’re not perfect," he said. "We make a lot of mistakes. People share across our services more than 100 billion pieces of content a day."

— Emily Birnbaum 

Zuckerberg says Libra may not be large enough for federal oversight

1:35 p.m.

Zuckerberg said that Libra may not be large enough to meet a federal threshold for stricter oversight, but ceded that regulators may disagree eventually.

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Zuckerberg said he’s unsure if Libra would automatically meet the standard of a systemically important financial institution (SIFI), which would subject the payment system to tougher regulation under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.

If a bank or other financial institution is labeled “systemically important,” it must hold higher levels of capital and pass rigorous federal stress tests to comply with Dodd-Frank.

Banks with more than $250 billion in assets are automatically considered systematically important, but a federal panel of regulators can apply those standards at will.

Several top federal regulators, including Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, have floated that Libra could meet the SIFI threshold as the government grapples with how to regulate the system.

— Sylvan Lane 

Dem lawmaker says Facebook 'should have known better' on digital redlining 

1:05 p.m. 

Zuckerberg became visibly uncomfortable during a line of questioning by Rep. Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyProgressive group unveils first slate of 2020 congressional endorsements Action needed to protect women in the workforce Stars turn out as Chappelle receives Mark Twain Prize MORE (D-Ohio), who said Facebook's civil rights practices are "appalling and disgusting" to her. 

Beatty asked Zuckerberg a litany of questions about how many women and minorities Facebook has hired. Zuckerberg replied multiple times that he did not know off the top of his head.

"It's almost like you think this is a joke when you have ruined the lives of many people, discriminating against them," Beatty, vice chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said with exasperation. 

Several lawmakers have raised long-standing allegations that Facebook allows digital "redlining" on its platform, enabling advertisers to exclude people in certain areas from seeing housing advertisements. Earlier this year, Facebook settled multiple lawsuits alleging that it was flouting civil rights laws by allowing advertisers to target audiences based on racial proxies and other protected classes. 

"Maybe if you had real diversity or inclusion on your team, somebody in that room would have said what you were doing when you looked at what you were doing in the housing, how you were redlining or using zip codes to eliminate people from getting information," Beatty said. "Maybe you just don't read a lot of things that deal with civil rights or African Americans." 

Facebook has met with the Congressional Black Caucus continually over several years as the members push the company to increase diversity within its workforce and protect minorities on its platform.  

— Emily Birnbaum

GOP lawmaker compares Zuckerberg to Trump 

12:45 p.m. 

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) drew a comparison between Zuckerberg and President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE, drawing smiles from several Democrats sitting on the dais, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). 

"There’s another gentleman in this town that I think you and he share a lot together — and that’s President Trump," Loudermilk said. "You’re both very successful businessmen, you’re both capitalists, you’re both billionaires, you’ve both done very well."

"[And] what you really share in common is you’ve both challenged the status quo," he said. "He calls it draining the swamp, you see its as innovation." 

Trump, who recently met with Zuckerberg, consistently slams the top social media companies in the country over allegations that they routinely censor right-wing voices.  

Facebook is currently walking a tough tightrope as it seeks to quell vehement criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. 

— Emily Birnbaum 

Zuckerberg says he identifies as a 'capitalist' 

12:30 p.m. 

Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsLive coverage: Zuckerberg testifies before House on Facebook's Libra project Population shifts set up huge House battleground The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (R-Texas) during the hearing posed a confrontational question: "Mr. Zuckerberg, are you a capitalist or are you a socialist?" 

The question evoked laughter and murmurs from the audience. But Zuckerberg, who has a net worth of around $69 billion, responded, "I would consider myself a capitalist." 

"Thank you for that and it’s always good to hear that," Williams replied. 

Williams offered five minutes of praise for Facebook and the tech executive, lauding Zuckerberg's "entrepreneurial spirit."  

— Emily Birnbaum 

Zuckerberg, GOP eye Libra to advance US leadership

11:55 a.m.

Zuckerberg found common ground with Republican congressmen, saying it was crucial that the U.S. use innovation to maintain its global financial leadership.

While GOP lawmakers expressed concerns with Libra’s potential size and scope, Republicans praised Zuckerberg for striving to compete with China’s massive investment in consumer financial platforms.

“That's not to say we shouldn't ask questions,  which is of course what we're doing here today,” said Rep. Andy BarrAndy Hale BarrKentucky Democrat moves closer to McConnell challenge Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths Unlikely allies push horse racing reform MORE (R-Ky.).

“But in America, a country built on free enterprise and capitalism, it's always better to be on the side of innovation, and we should always place the burden on the government to justify regulation and intervention.”

Zuckerberg and Libra officials have pitched the payments system as a U.S.-led alternative to systems from Chinese state-backed technology companies that are closely tied to Beijing’s surveillance operations. 

Zuckerberg also said products like Libra are essential for the U.S. to protect the dollar’s standing as the world’s reserve currency, which gives the country significant economic influence.

“We can't sit here and assume that because America is today the leader that it will always get to be the leader if we don't innovate,” Zuckerberg said, “and innovation means doing new things.”

“New things have risks and we need to address the risks,” he continued,  “but I personally worry that if we don't do things like this, whether it's this project or others like it, eventually we lose our leadership.”

— Sylvan Lane 

Zuckerberg says Facebook would be 'forced to leave' Libra Association without US regulatory approval 

11:40 a.m.

Zuckerberg told lawmakers that Facebook would be "forced to leave" the Libra Association if it tries to launch the cryptocurrency without approval from U.S. regulators.

"We would be forced to leave the association," he said, responding to a question about the hypothetical situation. "The association will weigh our recommendation and what we say publicly that we think should happen."

"But if, at the end of the day, we don’t receive the clearances that we think we need to move forward and the association chooses to move forward without us, then we will be in a position where we will not be in the association," he added. 

Throughout the morning, Zuckerberg assured lawmakers that he would not support the launch of the Libra coin without approval from U.S. regulators. The project has set a 2020 launch date, but executives have recently started to temper that expectation, saying it was merely a goal. 

— Emily Birnbaum 

Democrat says Libra would aid 'drug dealers, terrorists and tax-evaders'

11:25 a.m.

Rep. Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Bipartisan House members call on Trump to rescind Erdoğan invitation Live coverage: Zuckerberg testifies before House on Facebook's Libra project MORE (D-Calif.), one of the fiercest congressional skeptics of cryptocurrency, accused Zuckerberg of aiding “drug dealers, terrorists and tax-evaders” by promoting the idea of Libra.

Sherman insisted that there was no reason for Facebook to participate in the Libra Association or support any cryptocurrency, which he said would undermine the U.S. dollar.

“The U.S. dollar is an excellent currency as a means of account. It serves all the needs, except it's really bad for tax evaders, drug dealers and terrorists. And that unmet need can be met by new currency,” Sherman said.  

“If we make drug dealers just 10 percent more effective, how many American deaths is that over the next decade? Does it compare to the deaths we experienced from terrorism? We'll have to see.”

Sherman in July claimed Libra could do more to hurt the U.S. than the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which claimed nearly 3,000 American lives and spurred close to two decades of military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. 

— Sylvan Lane 

Republican lawmaker says Facebook should allow anti-vaccine content

11:10 a.m.

Rep. Bill PoseyWilliam (Bill) Joseph PoseyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Trump official declines to detail plans if ObamaCare struck down | DEA unveils rule for opioid manufacturers | Republican tells Zuckerberg to allow anti-vax content Poll: Women more likely to say social media has negative effect on society Republican lawmaker tells Zuckerberg Facebook should allow anti-vaccine content MORE (R-Fla.) used his five minutes of questioning to press Zuckerberg over Facebook's efforts to reduce the spread of anti-vaccine medical misinformation. 

Posey asked Zuckerberg why Facebook cracks down on anti-vaccine content if it believes in freedom of expression. 

"We do care deeply about giving people a voice and freedom of expression," Zuckerberg said. "At the same time, we also hear consistently from our community that people want us to stop the spread of misinformation. What we do is we try to focus on misinformation that has the potential to lead to physical harm or imminent harm, and that can include especially misleading health advice." 

This year, lawmakers and public health advocates have been pushing Facebook, as well as other top social media companies, to take stronger action against anti-vaccine content, arguing that the proliferation of medical misinformation has bolstered the movement of people who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children.  

Health experts have attributed recent measles outbreaks in the U.S. to an increasing number of people not getting vaccinations, warning that the movement largely uses social media to promote their views. 

Posey raised debunked concerns about the "risks of vaccinations," and Zuckerberg replied that Facebook allows people to participate in anti-vaccine groups and conversations but does not direct users to those discussions. 

— Emily Birnbaum 

Zuckerberg calls deepfakes an 'emerging threat'

10:55 a.m.

Zuckerberg called "deepfakes" — video footage that has been manipulated using artificial intelligence — one of the "emerging threats" facing the platform.

For months, experts and lawmakers have been raising concerns that deepfakes could be used to sow discord during U.S. elections, as manipulated videos of politicians and candidates are allowed to go viral across the world's social media platforms. The issue was forced into the spotlight earlier this year when Facebook declined to take down manipulated footage of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats sharpen their message on impeachment Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate Siren song of impeachment lures Democrats toward election doom MORE (D-Calif.), which was deceptively edited but not altered by AI.

"Deepfakes are clearly one of the emerging threats that we need to get in front of and develop policy around to address," Zuckerberg said. "We’re currently working on what the policy should be to differentiate between media that has been manipulated by AI tools like deepfakes, with the intent to mislead people, and compare that to normal content that might have been ... cut differently, someone might not like the way it was cut, but is not a deepfake."

— Emily Birnbaum 

Zuckerberg: Facebook has 'work to do' to rebuild trust

10:50 a.m.

Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook has “work to do” to regain the trust of the U.S. public after a Democratic congresswoman blasted the CEO for “lying” to regulators and consumers.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) asked Zuckerberg why Facebook should be trusted after the company was forced to pay billions in fines to U.S. and European regulators for a series of alleged privacy violations and misleading statements.

Facebook paid $5 billion to the Federal Trade Commission this year to settle allegations that it violated customers’ privacy by selling their data to Cambridge Analytica.  

The company also paid a fine to the European Union over charges it lied about whether Facebook and WhatsApp data systems would merge along with the companies. 

“Do you understand why this record makes us concerned with Facebook entering the cryptocurrency space?  Do you realize that you and Facebook have a credibility issue here?” asked Velázquez.

While Zuckerberg rejected Velázquez's claim that Facebook had lied, he acknowledged that the company needed to reassure customers that it could be trusted. 

Lawmakers in both parties have expressed concerns that Facebook could collect and sell data from Libra, though both companies insist that there will be no such connection. 

— Sylvan Lane 

Zuckerberg defends Libra project in opening remarks

10:35 a.m.

Zuckerberg kicked off his opening remarks by defending the Libra project while admitting he understands lawmakers’ concerns considering Facebook has had “a lot of issues over the past few years.” 

Zuckerberg said the cryptocurrency could help 14 million people in the U.S. who are currently “being shut out of the financial system.” 

“There are more than a million people around the world who don't have access to a bank account, but could through mobile phones if the right system existed,” he said.

But he conceded that Facebook is a controversial face for the project. 

“We've faced a lot of issues over the past few years,” Zuckerberg said, “and I'm sure there are a lot of people who wish it was anyone but Facebook who is helping to [launch] this.”

“But there's a reason we care about this,” he said. “Facebook is about putting power in peoples' hands.”  

“This has been a challenging few years for Facebook,” he said. “I feel blessed to be in a position where we can make a difference in peoples’ lives and for as long as I’m here, I’m committed to using our position to push for big ideas that I believe can help empower people.” 

— Emily Birnbaum 

Ranking member calls Libra hearing 'a trial on American innovation'

10:20 a.m.

The ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), began his opening remarks by calling the hearing a "trial on American innovation."

"You are one of the titans of what we call the digital age," McHenry said. "Maybe it’s not about Libra, it’s not just about some housing ads — no — maybe it’s not even really about Facebook at all. It’s that larger question, and fair or not fair, you’re here today to answer for the digital age."

McHenry said he has concerns and qualms about Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency project. But he laid into Democrats on the committee for attempting to stifle "innovation."

"Are we going to spend more time trying to devise ways for government planners to centralize and control as to who, when and how innovators can innovate?" McHenry said.

— Emily Birnbaum

Waters uses opening statement to ask if Facebook should be broken up

10:10 a.m.

House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) told Zuckerberg on Wednesday that Facebook's conduct and plans to enter the financial sector raises questions about whether the company should be broken up.

Waters excoriated Zuckerberg and Facebook in her opening statement for seeking to create a digital currency despite its a lengthy record of what she called alleged civil rights violations. The chairwoman cited Facebook's settlement with the Housing Department over fair housing violations, discriminatory advertising tools, and use by Russian hackers to inflame racial tensions ahead of the 2016 election.

“Your claim to promote freedom of speech does not ring true," Waters said. “It’s clear to me and to anyone who hears this list that you appear to believe that you are above the law ... and are willing to step over anyone ... to get what you want.”

— Sylvan Lane

Zuckerberg enters the room

9:55 a.m. 

"Heads up, guys," a staffer yelled to the room before Zuckerberg walked in, trailed by aides. "Mark," "Mr. Zuckerberg," the photographers called out as the tech CEO took his seat. He immediately turned around and began conferring with the group of advisers behind him.   

— Emily Birnbaum

Hordes swarm entrance ahead of hearing

9:30 a.m.

Press, staffers and lobbyists began crowding around the committee room around 7 a.m., three hours before the hearing was set to start.

Over a dozen photographers crowded around the witness table where Zuckerberg would sit as haggard staffers reminded them they would be expected to leave by the time the hearing kicked off. Behind them, lawmakers began trickling in and assuming their seats. 

 

By 9:30 a.m., hordes of photographers swarmed the entrance to Rayburn House Office Building as committee staffers corralled eager members of the press into the room. The line of people hoping to sit in on the hearing extended around the corner.

— Emily Birnbaum