The Most Disturbing Thing About My Meeting With Mark Zuckerberg

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to meet with some of the senior staff at Facebook, including the CEO and COO. I found the meeting deeply disturbing — but not for the reasons you might think.

Before I dig in, since I’ll be talking about bias, let me share a bit about mine. I have been an avid Facebook user for about 8 years. I have 3.2 million followers. I consistently see high engagement on my Facebook page. We have begun using Facebook’s live video streaming platform and are encouraged by the results and plan on utilizing it more. The Facebook staff has always treated me and my staff kindly. They have been responsive, helpful, and available. I came into the meeting today wanting to believe that Facebook was a good, if not perfect, actor.

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Walking out of the meeting, I was convinced that Facebook is behaving appropriately and trying to do the right thing. They were humble, open, and listened intently to everyone in the room.

So what disturbed me?

Before I answer, let me give a bit more background.

I am not an expert on data or AI or algorithms. If I had all the time, data, and money in the world, I would not be able to do anything with it.

I accept the possibility there may be evidence that Facebook — or said more clearly, someone or even multiple people who work for Facebook — may have done something that skewed the output in some way to game the system. But so far, I have not seen that evidence. And we looked for it. There are people at my company who understand this stuff far better than I do and they haven’t seen that evidence.

As a reminder, this entire controversy began when one former member of the Trending team — one — claimed Faceboook was suppressing conservative voices.

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Now I want to be very clear on this point. This issue, the Trending Topics issue, the reason we are supposed to be up in arms, is a relatively new product that Facebook readily admits is far from perfect. Maybe later we will go into the details of the multiple products and how each one MAY be impacted by an unconscious bias — and how Trending topics in particular MAY be vulnerable to manipulation — but the reason I went to Facebook was not to find out whether there was a small issue, but to see whether there was a real issue. A top-down initiative from management to marginalize conservative voices. We can, and will, debate the merits of some of the complaints against Facebook, but, in my opinion, there is no evidence of a top-down initiative to silence conservative voices.

Even if some employees would want to do so, it would be really hard. It does not seem reasonable to me (or the President of my company who is far more technical then I am) that this bias could have the impact some claim unless it comes from the top. Just a couple bad actors could not move the needle in a significant way.

I don’t know off the top of my head how many employees Facebook has, but it’s a lot more than one. I do know they have 1.6 billion users, and that serving those users can’t be easy. To ensure every user has the experience hoped for is no easy task, but what I saw at Facebook was a team of people who were trying.

So, why did Facebook hold the meeting at all if they are doing nothing wrong? Are they just looking for cover? Is this Kabuki Theatre? Am I a rube?

Maybe, but I’ve been called worse. If I find out there is more to the story, I will blast them — but I don’t think there is.

Why?

This is what I heard today:

In a country that is deeply divided, the largest and most important company in human interaction and content consumption saw the conservative movement in an uproar over ONE person, making ONE accusation, against ONE of their products. One story and the pitchforks came out. Now that’s something we conservatives are accustomed to, but not so much for those on the left.

Sure, the purpose of the meeting today was to appease the angry voices, at least to some degree. They took the opportunity to explain to us the details of their products and how they really can’t be consciously biased, although they did admit that unconscious bias can creep in. But to me, the purpose of the meeting from Facebook’s point of view was to acknowledge that if one story and one accusation can bring out the pitchforks, the more fundamental issue to address is a lack of trust.

Conservative media, which was started as a reaction to the inherent bias in the main stream media, does not trust anyone outside our circle. Hell, we don’t even trust the people inside our circle. So it’s understandable that going to Silicon Valley, for many conservatives, is like going into enemy territory.

THROWBACK: Why Does Glenn Believe the People of Silicon Valley Are so Important?

Silicon Valley is liberal, not a little bit liberal, a lot liberal. For example, I had a lunch today with a prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneur who donates to Democrats. If the internet is to be believed, he donated $250,000 to an Obama Super PAC. And when he (or was it someone else on his team?) described San Francisco, he described it as “leaning to the left.” Conservatives see San Francisco as falling off a cliff to the left.

That difference in perception is enormous.

I understand why conservatives are suspicious of Silicon Valley. It can feel a lot like the main stream media. But I’ve told you many times that I feel at home in Silicon Valley. I love the energy. These are people who want to innovate and disrupt, they want the government to stop regulating their businesses, they want small business to succeed, they value personal responsibility, etc. Why they are liberal? I don’t know, but in general, they’re not Progressives, at least not the folks I met with today (though I’m sure there were a few).

So, as a general rule, we do not trust them. And with one story, conservatives told Facebook, “There’s nothing left in the trust bank. There’s no goodwill. You must have been scamming us this whole time.”

I know I will be blasted by people for my position on this. I will be called a sellout. I will be accused of taking money or cowering for fear of retribution. (Of course, if I took the other side — that Facebook really was out to screw us, I would also be called names. Oh well, I just call it like I see it.)

So what disturbed me about the Facebook meeting?

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.

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. Maybe they had some, but it wasn’t shared. They discussed how Facebook’s organic reach and changes in algorithms has impacted their business. While at the same time admitting that Huffington Post has been struggling with the same issues. I heard people discuss community standards, pages being shut down, posts being removed — and I do believe that happens and it’s something Facebook could do better, and I hope they will — but we were not there because of that. We were there because of this ONE accusation on Trending Topics.

I sat there looking around and heard things like:

1) Facebook has a very liberal workforce. Has Facebook considered diversity in their hiring practice? The country is 2% Mormon. Maybe Facebook’s company should better reflect that reality.

2) Maybe Facebook should consider a six-month training program to help their biased and liberal workforce understand and respect conservative opinions and values.

3) We need to see strong and specific steps to right this wrong.

It was like affirmative action for conservatives. When did conservatives start demanding quotas AND diversity training AND less people from Ivy League Colleges.

I sat there, looking around the room at ‘our side’ wondering, ‘Who are we?’ Who am I? I want to be very clear – I am not referring to every person in the room. There were probably 25-30 people and a number of them, I believe, felt like I did. But the overall tenor, to me, felt like the Salem Witch Trial: ‘Facebook, you must admit that you are screwing us, because if not, it proves you are screwing us.’

What happened to us? When did we become them? When did we become the people who demand the Oscars add black actors based on race?

Someone made a good point at the meeting. The invitation alone from Facebook is staggering. Conservative voices are rarely, if ever, invited to the table for an open dialogue.

Has Twitter, Google, or any other Silicon Valley giant invited conservatives to speak, to understand what we are feeling and seeing? Has any other company or entity said, ‘Yes, many of our employees are liberal, many of us don’t understand you, but our goal is to be an open platform where ALL ideas (with limitations on hate and abuse, etc..) are welcome?’ Has any other organization with 1.6 billion users admitted that while their foundational values are the opposite of ours, it is bad business to cut off a segment of the population?

Mark Zuckerberg really impressed me with his manner, his ability to manage the room, his thoughtfulness, his directness, and what seemed to be his earnest desire to ‘connect the world’. I asked him if Facebook, now or in the future, would be an open platform for the sharing of all ideas or a curator of content? When I asked this question I told him I support his right to pick either direction. They are a private-owned company with investors who can decide what is right for them. They can decide what is right based on profits or based on interests or on principles or on social justice. I hope that they want to be open, but I will fight for their right to be who they want to be even if I do not like their decision. Without hesitation, with clarity and boldness, Mark said there is only one Facebook and one path forward: ‘We are an open platform.’

He went on to discuss that they are far from perfect, that they are always working on the algorithms, the improvement of the newsfeed, the user experience, etc. The goal, though, was very clear – to be an open platform. When I looked into his eyes and his team’s eyes, I believed him and I believed them. I hope I am not proven wrong.

How do I square this with other accusations from people and organizations I respect like CPAC and Matt Schlapp? I can’t. I don’t know what CPAC experienced, and I don’t know if they are right or not. I have seen Steven Crowder’s complaint, and I have no response other than I love Steven and hope he gets the satisfaction he deserves. I have spoken to others off the record who have made similar claims as CPAC’s. How do I square those complaints? I can’t.

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Maybe one day, maybe one day soon, I will be able to synthesize these two opposite perspectives. Maybe one party will show solid evidence or a smoking gun. But until then, based on our research and my personal experience with Facebook, I believe they are acting in good faith and share some very deep, fundamental principles with people who believe in the principles of liberty and freedom of speech.

Featured Image: Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman, Chief Executive, and Co-founder of Facebook

Christmas is the gift that keeps on giving for radical leftists. This charade goes on year after year, where decent folks across America try to enjoy and celebrate Christmas, and a few militant progressives disapprove. It's exhausting. We get it, you don't like Christmas. And that's totally fine. But entire communities of people who do like to celebrate Christmas are tired of their celebration being held hostage by an extreme minority—sometimes just one person—getting offended.

This year, a self-described “Unintentional Grinch who stole Christmas" is in the lead to win Scrooge of the Year. The principal at Manchester Elementary in Omaha, Nebraska sent her teachers a memo this week outlining all the Christmas-related items and activities that will not be allowed in their classrooms.

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The banned list includes:

  • Santa
  • Christmas trees
  • Elf on the Shelf
  • Singing Christmas carols
  • Playing Christmas music
  • Making an ornament as a gift
  • Any red and green items
  • Reindeer
  • And, of course, candy canes. Not because the sugar will make the children hyper, but because, as the principal explains, the candy cane is shaped like a “J" for Jesus.

She writes, “the red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection." In case you try to cheat, different-colored candy canes are not allowed either.

Why is this principal going out of her way to delete any trace of Christmas in her school? She explains:

“I come from a place that Christmas and the like are not allowed in schools…"

Her list, “aligns with my interpretation of our expectations as a public school who seeks to be inclusive and culturally sensitive to all of our students."

What about being culturally sensitive toward students who do celebrate Christmas?

Kids will survive if they're accidentally exposed to a Santa.

The irony here, for this principal and others who hate Christmas and the Christianity that undergirds it, is that Christmas has long existed on two parallel tracks. You've got the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ on one, and you've got the Santa Claus, secular mythology on the other. That means there is more than enough about the Christmas season that has nothing to do with Jesus if that's your thing.

You don't need a totalitarian list of forbidden things to protect the children from a 2,000-year-old holiday. Kids will survive if they're accidentally exposed to a Santa, or a Christmas carol, or—heaven forbid—a manger scene.

Avenatti bails on 2020 presidential run, leaving Biden as 'most qualified' — really?

Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Politicon

Well, that de-escalated quickly. Michael Avenatti, lawyer of Stormy Daniels, announced he will not run for president in 2020 after all. That takes the number of Democrats planning to challenge Trump down to around 724.

In a statement, Avenatti said he would still run, but he decided not to out of respect for his family's “concerns." He didn't list their concerns, but said:

“We will not prevail in 2020 without a fighter. I remain hopeful the party finds one."

Speaking of — if you've been wondering who's the most qualified person in America to be president, wonder no more. It's former vice president Joe Biden.

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How do we know? Because ol' Joe told us so, at a book tour stop in Montana. The 76-year-old says he'll make a decision about a 2020 bid within the next two months, which is campaign-speak for “I'm definitely running, so get out your checkbooks."

Biden admitted:

“I am a gaffe machine, but my God what a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can't tell the truth."

Yeah, about that… the first time Biden ran for president, in 1987, he was actually pulling ahead of the Democratic pack until his campaign got snagged on plagiarism. He got caught lifting entire sections of a speech by Neil Kinnock, a British Labor Party candidate who ran for Prime Minister and lost to Margaret Thatcher. It wasn't just the fact that Biden copied exact sections of Kinnock's speech, he also stole biographical facts from Kinnock's life and tried to pass them off as his own — like saying his ancestors were coal miners.

The most qualified person in the country to be president? Maybe in the mind of Joe Biden.

Perhaps in the pre-Internet era, Biden thought he could get away with it. But he didn't. An adviser for Michael Dukakis' campaign saw a tape of Kinnock's speech and put together a side-by-side comparison video of Biden's plagiarizing, then sent the tape to the New York Times. As reporters dug further into the story, they found that Biden had also lifted large portions of speeches by Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey.

Those revelations led Biden to admit he got an “F" for a course in law school after he plagiarized five pages for a term paper. Biden was caught in more lies about his academic credentials and enough embarrassments mounted that he finally withdrew from the race.

The most qualified person in the country to be president? Maybe in the mind of Joe Biden.

Saturday Night Live writer Nimesh Patel, an Emmy-nominated comedian, is the latest victim in campus culture's wacky game. Patel is the first Indian-American writer for SNL, so by the usual standards of identity politics, he should be safe. Not the case. All of the rules went out the window when he was performing a stand-up comedy set for an event called "cultureSHOCK: Reclaim" at Columbia University hosted by the Asian American Alliance.

He joked that being gay cannot be a choice because “no one looks in the mirror and thinks, 'this black thing is too easy, let me just add another thing to it.'"

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For one, that's less of a joke and more of a statement. It's exactly the kind of safe, pro-LGBT statement that you would think campus feminists and trans activists would squeal with glee to hear.

According to Columbia's school paper, student organizers, offended by Patel's joke, rushed the stage 30 minutes into the set and told Patel that he needed to finish his set and say a few closing remarks.

Patel argued that his jokes were not offensive, and that they were actually much-needed insights into the real world. He also made it clear that he stands in solidarity with the Asian American Alliance.

They still cut his microphone off and booted him off stage.

Patel hasn't commented on the uproar, but here are a few comments from people who were in the audience:

The Columbia Spectator quoted three students who were in the audience. One of them said:

“The message they were trying to send with the event was opposite to the jokes he was making, and using people's ethnicity as the crux of his jokes could be funny but still offensive... He definitely wasn't the most crass comedian I've ever heard but for the event it was inappropriate."

Another student said:

“I really dislike when people who are older say that our generation needs to be exposed to the real world. Obviously the world is not a safe space but just accepting that it's not and continuing to perpetuate the un-safeness of it… is saying that it can't be changed," said Jao. “When older generations say you need to stop being so sensitive, it's like undermining what our generation is trying to do in accepting others and making it safer."

The radical version of leftism that has overtaken college campuses... will eat their own without thinking twice.

The third student wasn't bothered by the jokes:

“While what some of the things that he said might have been a bit provoking to some of the audience, as someone who watches comedy a lot, none of them were jokes that I hadn't heard before and none of them were jokes that elicited such a response in my experience."

The third student is a little ray of hope in all of this, but I'm afraid that people like her are increasingly outnumbered and unwilling to speak up.

The jokes were clearly not racist or homophobic. If anything, they seem to have been designed to pander to overly sensitive campus activists who all too often cry “racist" and “homophobic" and all their other insults.

It just goes to show that the left, particularly the radical version of leftism that has overtaken college campuses, will stop at nothing to push its postmodern narrative. They'll spare nobody. And they will eat their own without thinking twice.

Forbes recently described student loan debt as the $1.5 trillion crisis, adding that "Student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category - behind only mortgage debt - and higher than both credit cards and auto loans," which is affecting 44 million borrowers in the U.S.

There's also the cultural effect that college is having, the indoctrination that young people are being subjected to. More and more powerful people are recognizing that college as an institution is a problem.

Last Friday, Peter Thiel gave a keynote speech at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's Collegiate Network editors' conference. He told a roomful of 100 students:

Universities today are as corrupt as the Catholic Church of 500 years ago. At some point, if it's 100 to zero, you start to suspect you're in North Korea. Does the unanimity mean you've gotten to the truth, or does it mean you're in a totalitarian state. We have this illusion that all sorts of important decisions have been decided.

He added:

We are not on the losing side of history. The other side is on the losing side. The reformation is going to happen, and it won't come from within, but from the outside.

Thiel has worked actively to bring about the change that he's talking about here. The lawsuit he led against Gawker helped topple their empire of filth and lowest-level journalism. He has also created The Thiel Fellowship, which "gives $100,000 to young people who want to build new things instead of sitting in a classroom. The idea that we are on the losing side is a form of psychological warfare."

We're not on the losing side. Not in the slightest.

And he's right. We're not on the losing side. Not in the slightest. We're on the up-and-up. Things are only going to get better from here.