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.

RELATED: ACU Chairman: Conservatives Want to Take a Two-by-Four to Washington, D.C.

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

Stop trying to be right and think of the children

Mario Tama/Getty Images

All the outrage this week has mainly focused on one thing: the evil Trump administration and its minions who delight in taking children from their illegal immigrant parents and throwing them all in dungeons. Separate dungeons, mind you.

That makes for a nice, easy storyline, but the reality is less convenient. Most Americans seem to agree that separating children from their parents — even if their parents entered the US illegally — is a bad thing. But what if that mom and dad you're trying to keep the kids with aren't really the kids' parents? Believe it or not, fraud happens.

RELATED: Where were Rachel Maddow's tears for immigrant children in 2014?

While there are plenty of heartbreaking stories of parents simply seeking a chance for a better life for their children in the US, there are also corrupt, abusive human traffickers who profit from the illegal immigration trade. And sorting all of this out is no easy task.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security said that since October 2017, more than 300 children have arrived at the border with adults claiming to be their parents who turned out not to be relatives. 90 of these fraud cases came from the Rio Grande Valley sector alone.

In 2017, DHS reported 46 causes of fraudulent family claims. But there have already been 191 fraud cases in 2018.

Shouldn't we be concerned about any child that is smuggled by a human trafficker?

When Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pointed out this 315 percent increase, the New York Times was quick to give these family fraud cases "context" by noting they make up less than one percent of the total number of illegal immigrant families apprehended at the southern border. Their implication was that Nielsen was exaggerating the numbers. Even if the number of fraud cases at the border was only 0.001 percent, shouldn't we be concerned about any child that is smuggled by a human trafficker?

This is the most infuriating part of this whole conversation this week (if you can call it a "conversation") — that both sides have an angle to defend. And while everyone's busy yelling and making their case, children are being abused.

What if we just tried, for two seconds, to love having mercy more than we love having to be right all the time?

Remember when cartoons were happy things? Each panel took you on a tiny journey, carrying you to an unexplored place. In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud writes:

The comics creator asks us to join in a silent dance of the seen and the unseen. The visible and the invisible. This dance is unique to comics. No other artform gives so much to its audience while asking so much from them as well. This is why I think it's a mistake to see comics as a mere hybrid of the graphic arts and prose fiction. What happens between . . . panels is a kind of magic only comics can create.

When that magic is manipulated or politicized, it often devolves the artform into a baseless thing. Yesterday, Occupy Wall Street published the perfect example of low-brow deviation of the artform: A six-panel approach at satire, which imitates the instructions-panel found in the netted cubbyhole behind seats on airplanes. The cartoon is a critique of the recent news about immigrant children being separated from their parents after crossing the border. It is a step-by-step guide to murdering US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents.

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The first panel shows a man shoving an infant into a cage meant for Pomeranians. The following five panels feature instructions, and include pictures of a cartoonish murder.

The panels read as follows:

  1. If an ICE agent tries to take your child at the border, don't panic.
  2. Pull your child away as quickly as possibly by force.
  3. Gently tell your child to close his/her eyes and ears so they won't witness what you are about to do.
  4. Grab the ICE agent from behind and push your knife into his chest with an upward thrust, causing the agent's sternum to break.
  5. Reach into his chest and pull out his still beating heart.
  6. Hold his bloody heart out for all other agents to see, and tell them that the same fate awaits them if they f--- with your child again.

Violent comics are nothing new. But most of the time, they remain in the realms of invented worlds — in other words, not in our own, with reference to actual people, let alone federal agents.

The mainstream media made a game of crying racism with every cartoon depiction of Obama during his presidency, as well as during his tenure as Senator, when the New Yorker, of all things, faced scrutiny for depicting him in "Muslim clothing." Life was a minefield for political cartoonists during the Obama era.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

This year, we saw the leftist outrage regarding The Simpsons character Apu — a cartoon representation of a highly-respected, though cartoonishly-depicted, character on a cartoon show composed of cartoonishly-depicted characters.

We all remember Charlie Hebdo, which, like many outlets that have used cartoon satire to criticize Islam, faced the wrath and ire of people unable to see even the tamest representation of the prophet, Muhammad.

Interesting, isn't it? Occupy Wall Street publishes a cartoon that advocates murdering federal agents, and critics are told to lighten up. Meanwhile, the merest depiction of Muhammad has resulted in riots throughout the world, murder and terror on an unprecedented scale.

The intersection of Islam and comics is complex enough to have its own three-hour show, so we'll leave it at that, for now. Although, it is worth mentioning the commentary by satirical website The Onion, which featured a highly offensive cartoon of all the major religious figures except Muhammad. It noted:

Following the publication of the image above, in which the most cherished figures from multiple religious faiths were depicted engaging in a lascivious sex act of considerable depravity, no one was murdered, beaten, or had their lives threatened.

Of course, Occupy Wall Street is free to publish any cartoon they like. Freedom of speech, and so on—although there have been several instances in which violent cartoons were ruled to have violated the "yelling fire in a crowded theater" limitation of the First Amendment.

Posting it to Twitter is another issue — this is surely in violation of Twitter's violent content policy, but something tells me nothing will come of it. It's a funny world, isn't it? A screenshot of a receipt from Chick-fil-A causes outrage but a cartoon advocating murder gets crickets.

RELATED: Twitter mob goes ballistic over Father's Day photo of Caitlyn Jenner. Who cares?

In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud concludes that, "Today the possibilities for comics are — as they've always been — endless. Comics offers . . . range and versatility, with all the potential imagery of film and painting plus the intimacy of the written word. And all that's needed is the desire to be heard, the will to learn, and the ability to see."

Smile, and keep moving forward.

Crude and awful as the Occupy Wall Street comic is, the best thing we can do is nod and look elsewhere for the art that will open our eyes. Let the lunatics draw what they want, let them stew in their own flawed double standards. Otherwise, we're as shallow and empty as they are, and nothing good comes of that. Smile, and keep moving forward.

Things are getting better. Show the world how to hear, how to learn, how to see.

People should start listening to Nikki Haley

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

Okay. Let's take a vote. You know, an objective, quantifiable count. How many resolutions has the UN Human Rights Council adopted condemning dictatorships? Easy. Well. How do you define "dictatorship"?

Well, one metric is the UN Human Rights Council Condemnation. How many have the United Nations issued to China, with a body count higher than a professional Call of Duty player?

Zero.

How about Venezuela, where socialism is devouring its own in the cruelest, most unsettling ways imaginable?

Zero.

And Russia, home of unsettling cruelty and rampant censorship, murder and (actual) homophobia?

Zero.

Iraq? Zero. Turkey? Iraq? Zero. Cuba? Zero. Pakistan? Zero.

RELATED: Nikki Haley just dropped some serious verbal bombs on Russia at the UN

According to UN Human Rights Council Condemnations, 2006-2016, none of these nations is as dangerous as we'd imagined. Or, rather, none of them faced a single condemnation. Meanwhile, one country in particular has faced unbelievable scrutiny and fury — you'll never guess which country.

No, it's not Somalia. It's Israel. With 68 UN Human Rights Council Condemnations! In fact, the number of total United Nations condemnations against Israel outnumbers the total of condemnations against all other countries combined. The only country that comes close is Syria, with 15.

The Trump administration withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday in protest of what it perceives as an entrenched bias against Israel and a willingness to allow notorious human rights abusers as members.

In an address to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Nikki Haley said:

Let's remember that the Hamas terrorist organization has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy. This is what is endangering the people of Gaza. Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday... No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.

Maybe people should start listening to Haley. Hopefully, they will. Not likely, but there's no crime in remaining hopeful.

Here's a question unique to our times: "Should I tell my father 'Happy Father's Day,' even though he (she?) is now one of my mothers?"

Father's Day was four days ago, yes, but this story is just weird enough to report on. One enjoyable line to read was this gem from Hollywood Gossip: "Cait is a woman and a transgender icon, but she is also and will always be the father of her six children."

RELATED: If Bruce was never a he and always a she, who won the men's Olympic gold in 1976?

Imagine reading that to someone ten — even five — years ago. And, honestly, there's something nice about it. But the strangeness of its having ever been written overpowers any emotional impact it might bring.

"So lucky to have you," wrote Kylie Jenner, in the Instagram caption under pre-transition pictures of Bruce Jenner.

Look. I risk sounding like a tabloid by mere dint of having even mentioned this story, but the important element is the cultural sway that's occurring. The original story was that a band of disgruntled Twitter users got outraged about the supposed "transphobic" remarks by Jenner's daughter.

But, what we should be saying is, "who the hell cares?" Who cares what one Jenner says to another — and more importantly and on a far deeper level — who cares what some anonymous Twitter user has to say?

When are we going to stop playing into the hands of the Twitter mob?

When are we going to stop playing into the hands of the Twitter mob? Because, at the moment, they've got it pretty good. They have a nifty relationship with the mainstream media: One or two Twitter users get outraged by any given thing — in this case Jenner and supposed transphobia. In return, the mainstream media use the Twitter comment as a source.

Then, a larger Twitter audience points to the article itself as proof that there's some kind of systemic justice at play. It's a closed-market currency, where the negative feedback loop of proof and evidence is composed of faulty accusations. Isn't it a hell of a time to be alive?