WSJ Profile of Facebook’s Zuckerberg Talks About His Political Education, “Open Line” With President’s Son-in-Law and Others


Mr. Zuckerberg maintains an open line with Mr. Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser. The two sometimes discuss Facebook policies over WhatsApp. The CEO spoke this year with Mr. Kushner and separately with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about TikTok’s U.S. presence, people familiar with the talks said….

As tech platforms announced new political-content policies over the past year, Mr. Kushner has argued to Mr. Zuckerberg that some of those moves could hurt Republican and Democratic campaigns alike, people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Zuckerberg also has forged ties with right-leaning publishers that drive engagement on the platform, including Ben Shapiro, co-founder of the Daily Wire and a Trump supporter, people familiar with the matter say. The conservative news site has been flagged repeatedly by Facebook’s fact-checkers for sharing falsehoods and distortions. But it is frequently among the most popular on the platform based on user interactions, according to CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned analytics tool….

In late 2017, when Facebook tweaked its newsfeed algorithm to minimize the presence of political news, policy executives were concerned about the outsize impact of the changes on the right, including the Daily Wire, people familiar with the matter said. Engineers redesigned their intended changes so that left-leaning sites like Mother Jones were affected more than previously planned, the people said. Mr. Zuckerberg approved the plans. “We did not make changes with the intent of impacting individual publishers,” a Facebook spokesman said….

After the launch last year of Courier Newsroom, a network of eight progressive local-news sites that is part-owned by a left-leaning nonprofit with close ties to Democratic donors, Mr. Zuckerberg argued that Courier wasn’t a real news outlet, given its political connections, according to people familiar with his views.

The discussion sparked a new Facebook policy in August that limits the reach of partisan-backed sites by blocking their pages from inclusion in Facebook News, restricting their access to the Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp platforms and curtailing their advertising.

The nonprofit behind Courier Newsroom, called Acronym, criticized the policy, saying it favors conservative news sources.

Mr. Zuckerberg has also begun meeting with progressive groups, whose leaders argued that if he was developing personal relationships with conservatives like Mr. Shapiro, he should hear from the other side, too. The conversations haven’t always gone smoothly.

Rashad Robinson, president of the civil-rights group Color of Change, said that Mr. Zuckerberg appeared to lack an understanding of the ways Facebook could be contributing to voter suppression.

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