(CNSNews.com) - At a hearing Tuesday on privacy concerns surrounding Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, the company's founder, chairman and CEO, said he is "very committed to making sure that Facebook is a platform for all ideas," including conservative ideas. "That is a -- a very important founding principle of -- of what we do," he said.
Zuckerberg was responding to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who asked him if Facebook considers itself a "neutral public forum" that allows "everyone to speak."
"Senator, we consider ourselves to be a platform for all ideas," Zuckerberg responded. "Here's how we think about this: I don't believe that -- there are certain content that clearly we do not allow, right? Hate speech, terrorist content, nudity, anything that makes people feel unsafe in the community. From that perspective, that's why we generally try to refer to what we do as platform for all ideas--"
Cruz interrupted Zuckerberg with the same question: "Do you consider yourself a neutral public forum, or are you engaged in political speech, which is your right under the First Amendment?"
"Well, Senator, our goal is certainly not to engage in political speech," Zuckerberg said. "I'm just trying to lay out how broadly I think about this."
Cruz told Zuckerberg that many Americans are deeply concerned about Facebook and other tech companies engaging in political censorship of conservative news and information.
Cruz gave examples: "In May of 2016, Gizmodo reported that Facebook had purposely and routinely suppressed conservative stories from trending news, including stories about CPAC, including stories about Mitt Romney, including stories about the Lois Lerner IRS scandal, including stories about Glenn Beck.
In addition to that," Cruz continued, "Facebook has initially shut down the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day page, has blocked a post of a Fox News reporter, has blocked over two dozen Catholic pages, and most recently blocked Trump supporters Diamond and Silk's page, with 1.2 million Facebook followers, after determining their content and brand were, quote, 'unsafe to the community.'
"To a great many Americans that appears to be a pervasive pattern of political bias. Do you agree with that assessment?" Cruz asked Zuckerberg.
"Senator, let me say a few things about this," Zuckerberg responded. "First, I understand where that concern is coming from, because Facebook and the tech industry are located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely left-leaning place, and I -- this is actually a concern that I have and that I try to root out in the company, is making sure that we do not have any bias in the work that we do, and I think it is a fair concern that people would at least wonder about."
Cruz also asked Zuckerberg if he knows the "political orientation" of the 15,000 to 20,000 Facebook employees who are working on security and content review.
"No, Senator," Zuckerberg said. "We do not generally ask people about their political orientation when they're joining the company. Zuckerberg also said "no," he doesn't make hiring or firing decisions based on an employee's political positions; and he said he does not know how many of the 15,000-20,000 content reviewers have ever contributed to a Republican political candidate.
Cruz noted that Zuckerberg, in his testimony, said: "It is not enough that we just connect people. We have to make sure those connections are positive...We have to make sure people aren't using their voice to hurt people or spread misinformation. We have a responsibility, not just to build tools, to make sure those tools are used for good."
"Mr. Zuckerberg," Cruz continued, "do you feel it's your (Facebook's) responsibility to assess users, whether they are good and positive connections or ones that those 15 to 20,000 people deem unacceptable or deplorable?"
"Senator, I think that there are a number of things that we would all agree are clearly bad. Foreign interference in our elections, terrorism, self-harm. Those are things--" Zuckerberg started to say.
"I'm talking about censorship," Cruz interrupted.
"Well, I -- I think that you would probably agree that we should remove terrorist propaganda from the service. So that -- I agree. I think it is -- is clearly bad activity that we want to get down. And we're generally proud of -- of how well we -- we do with that," Zuckerberg said.
"Now what I can say -- and I -- and I do want to get this in before the end, here -- is that I am -- I am very committed to making sure that Facebook is a platform for all ideas. That is a -- a very important founding principle of -- of what we do.
"We're proud of the discourse and the different ideas that people can share on the service, and that is something that, as long as I'm running the company, I'm going to be committed to making sure is the case."