Al Sharpton, civil rights leaders to meet with Zuckerberg about political ads

Al Sharpton, civil rights leaders to meet with Zuckerberg about political ads
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Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Senators ask Trump to halt Huawei licenses | Warren criticizes Zuckerberg over secret dinner with Trump | Senior DHS cyber official to leave | Dems offer bill on Libra oversight Amnesty International: Facebook, Google surveillance an 'assault on privacy' Warren calls newly reported Zuckerberg-Trump dinner 'corruption' MORE will huddle with the Rev. Al Sharpton and other top civil rights leaders next week in California to discuss concerns about Facebook's policy allowing politicians to make false statements in political ads, Sharpton confirmed Thursday.

The meeting between Zuckerberg and top officials with the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and others will come about a month into a controversy over whether Facebook is enabling the spread of misinformation with its political ads policy.

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"Last week, I sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, requesting a face-to-face meeting with me and other national civil rights leaders to discuss Facebook’s policy to decline to fact-check the accuracy of politicians’ content on Facebook," Sharpton said in a statement.

"I have deep concerns that this policy is a misinformation vehicle that could aid voter suppression and voter misinformation efforts, and it should be stopped immediately," he added.

A coalition of leading civil rights groups penned a letter earlier this month requesting a meeting with Zuckerberg "to discuss our concerns as Civil Rights leaders regarding issues of election security and voter suppression tactics."

According to Sharpton, Zuckerberg agreed to his request this week.

“Mark and Sheryl will host a dinner with leaders in the civil rights community to hear their direct perspective and feedback,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill. 

Zuckerberg has claimed that his company's political ads stance stems from a belief in "free expression" rather than a drive for profit. Ads from politicians only account for about 0.5 percent of Facebook's total revenue, he pointed out in an earnings call on Wednesday.

But Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates have pushed back at that defense, accusing Facebook of abdicating its responsibility to stave off misinformation on its wide-reaching platform and actively profiting from lies.

Hundreds of Facebook employees in a letter circulated this week also accused their employer of allowing politicians to "weaponize" the platform.

On Wednesday evening, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that his platform will no longer run any political ads, putting new pressure on Zuckerberg to rethink his stance.

“The fact that Twitter and even some Facebook employees have taken strong stands on this issue only furthers the need for Mr. Zuckerberg to reconsider his position," Sharpton said on Thursday. "In an era of voter suppression, we must press with all we have to protect our civil rights and voting rights. This is not an issue of free speech; this is an issue of voter misinformation and voter suppression.”

— Updated at 11:36 a.m.