Facebook’s Zuckerberg defends company after critical Trump tweet

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Facebook Inc’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday defended his company’s role in US elections and rejected assertions in a tweet from US President Donald Trump that the social network was against him.

Zuckerberg has been on the defensive for weeks over revelations that Russian agents bought ads on Facebook and created fake accounts to inflame political tensions in the United States ahead of the 2016 presidential vote.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday Zuckerberg said both Trump and liberals were upset about ideas and content on Facebook during the campaign.

“That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like,” Zuckerberg said on Wednesday.

Zuckerburg noted that the 2016 campaign was the first in the United States where the internet was a primary way candidates communicated and said the ability of candidates and voters to interact was a good thing.

He also pointed to “get out the vote” efforts that had spurred almost 2 million people to register to vote.

In the same post, Zuckerberg said he regretted saying after the election that it was “crazy” to think that misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election, adding that the comment was “dismissive.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump’s tweet criticized Facebook as “anti-Trump” and  questioned its role during the 2016 presidential campaign, amid probes into alleged Russian interference in the election and possible collusion by Trump’s associates.

His salvo came as the social media giant prepares to hand over 3,000 political ads to congressional investigators that it has said were likely purchased by Russian entities during and after last year’s presidential contest.

Trump appeared to embrace the focus on the social media network in his comments on Wednesday, which also took aim at more traditional medial outlets, long targeted by the president as “fake news.”

“Facebook was always anti-Trump. The networks were always anti-Trump,” Trump said on Twitter, leveling the same charge against the New York Times and the Washington Post. “Collusion?”

Representatives for Facebook and the newspapers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s tweet.

US Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is among those investigating Russia’s role, said he expected to have the ads by next week and that they should be made public.

“You really need to see them … to recognize how cynical an effort this was by the Kremlin, how they sought to just accentuate those divisions … and drive American against American,” Schiff told MSNBC, adding that Facebook and Twitter Inc executives should testify publicly about the issue.

“I have concerns about how long it took Facebook to realize the Russians were advertising on their network,” Schiff told MSNBC, adding that he has spoken several times with the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook and other technology companies are coming under increased scrutiny amid the Russia investigations. The probes, being conducted by several congressional committees along with the Department of Justice, have clouded Trump’s tenure since taking office in January and threatened his agenda, which has yet to secure a major legislative victory.

Trump himself has previously praised Facebook and credited it with helping him win the November election. His campaign has said it spent some $70 million on Facebook ads, and it also ran a live Facebook show.

His latest comments did not appear to affect shares of the company, which were up 1.4 percent at $166.50 a share in late morning trading after analysts raised their price target for the stock.



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