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From toast of town to toxic: Facebook CEO on outs with Dems

AP  |  Washington 

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.

Addressing criticisms from Democratic lawmakers and civil rights groups over Facebook's track record on fighting discrimination, Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg planned to host a dinner Monday night with civil rights leaders. The two executives want to hear the leaders' "direct perspective and feedback," the company said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said last week that Zuckerberg would meet with him and others to discuss concerns such as Facebook's handling of political messages. Misinformation on the platform can contribute to the suppression of voting by African Americans and other minorities, civil rights leaders say.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, November 05 2019. 00:45 IST