Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg's social network in Washington is shrinking. Bipartisan hostility against Facebook has been building for months, fueled by a series of privacy scandals, the site's role in Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign and accusations that Facebook crushes competitors. Now, with the 2020 elections approaching, Democrats especially are homing in on the conduct of the social media giant and its refusal to fact-check political ads and remove false ones.
"When you're the No. 1 monopoly, people are going to come after you," says John Feehery, a veteran Republican communications strategist. The challenge for Democrats, as he sees it: "They're facing a base that is very angry and restive. So they have to be much more aggressive in taking on corporations." Zuckerberg enjoyed a cozy relationship with the Obama administration. But in the face of growing public outrage, the co-founder of the upstart born under the motto "Move fast and break things" is learning the art of smoothing over and piecing back together.
His new strategy: a personal blitz featuring serial private meetings in Washington with key lawmakers of both parties and President Donald Trump; small, off-the-record dinners at his California home with conservative journalists and opinion makers; and the occasional public address or TV interview. He's become lobbyist-in-chief for a tech giant that has about 60 people officially playing that role. The company spent an estimated $12.6 million on federal influencing last year.
The political ad issue hits close to home for Democrats. Facebook, as well as Twitter and Google, refused in September to remove a misleading video ad from Trump's reelection campaign that targeted top-tier Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
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