Insider: Tlaib, Huizenga question Facebook CEO about hate groups, digital currency

Beth LeBlanc Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Two Michigan U.S. House members got a shot Wednesday at questioning Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has become a lightning rod among conservatives and liberals alike.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, asked Zuckerberg why he hadn't done more to limit hate groups' use of the social media platform.

“Why haven’t you stopped hate groups from using your events page and are you endorsing these groups by leaving their events page up?” Tlaib questioned Zuckerberg as he appeared before the House Financial Services Committee.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., questions Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg responded that it was difficult for Facebook to police every instance of a hate group using the platform.

"We are not perfect," he added. "We make a lot of mistakes.”

Tlaib then turned to politicians' use of Facebook.

"Why should the very politicians who lead our country be held to a lower standard for truthfulness and decency than the average American?" Tlaib asked, echoing a desire among other Democratic lawmakers for Facebook to police political ads.

Zuckerberg replied, "This isn’t about helping the politicians. This is about making sure that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, also questioned Zuckerberg, focusing on Facebook's digital currency Libra.

Then, Huizenga said, “You need to help us understand where the line between people’s First Amendment rights, yours, mine, all of society’s, lie and the safety of our society regardless of the platform or tool.”

Zuckerberg wasn't given time to reply.

Zuckerberg's testimony came a day after Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced her office would join dozens of other states conducting an antitrust investigation into Facebook. 

The social media platform is barred by law from using its "market power to engage into anti-competitive conduct" to keep a monopoly, Nessel said in a statement. 

Pence cancels U.P. stop

Vice President Mike Pence canceled Wednesday short stops he planned to make in the Upper Peninsula and later visits in nearby Marinette, Wisconsin.

Pence planned to land at the Menominee Regional Airport Wednesday morning on his way from Joint Base Andrews to Marinette, Wisconsin, but he cancelled because of a scheduling conflict, said Jason Carviou, the Menominee County administrator. 

Pence was supposed to travel to Marinette for a tour of the U.S. Navy's new littoral combat ship USS St. Louis at shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine. He was expected to speak on workforce development there.

President Donald Trump speaks, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington. The president was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, left, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien.

Pence instead appeared beside President Donald Trump in Washington as the president made a statement on Syria.

The former Indiana governor made his scheduled Wednesday afternoon visit to Waukegan, Illinois, to visit the Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin packaging materials distributor Uline, a company founded by Republican donors Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein. He spoke there on the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

Pence's last visit to Michigan, at Mackinac Island for the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, stirred controversy as the vice president used an eight-car motorcade to drive from the island airport to the Grand Hotel on the usually car-less island.

Whitmer a term limits foe

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday it was "too early" for her to weigh in on a potential 2020 ballot proposal to extend term limits and impose ethics reforms.

A day earlier, state lawmakers, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the group Voters Not Politicians revealed discussions about potentially joining forces on a proposal to increase term limits for lawmakers to as high as 20 years. Currently, lawmakers can serve three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Under the discussions, the groups could combine the term limits expansion with a cooling off period before former lawmakers can become lobbyists, a policy to make it harder to pass bills in lame duck and other reforms.

While Whitmer declined to take a position on the still forming proposal, she did highlight her opposition to the 1992 proposal to amend the Michigan Constitution to institute term limits. That amendment passed with about 59% support.

"I did not support term limits when it was on the ballot decades ago," Whitmer said. "It is something that I think we’ve paid a price for."

The Associated Press contributed.