Stories

How lawmakers responded to Sheryl Sandberg's pitch

Sandberg in January. Photo: Thibault Camus / AP

In her swing through DC (which included an interview with Axios), Sheryl Sandberg made the case that Facebook is ready to work with legislators. It seems that, at least so far, concerned lawmakers are willing to wait and see before pushing for major new legislation.

The bigger picture: In various meetings, Sandberg argued that while Facebook can remove some content from its platform, it needs to tread carefully to uphold broad values of free speech. Here's how that message was received by lawmakers:

  • In her meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, according to lawmakers, Sandberg used the example of an anti-immigrant message as one that would be in a grey area as Facebook decided what to take down. Lawmakers indicated the company was facing a complicated question when balancing free speech concerns with policing the platform. "She heard that we all believe in free speech also, and there's things on there that she definitely doesn't want to see on there but she feels because of free speech and the kind of company they are that they're not going to agree with everything [posted on the platform]," said Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL)
  • Others expressed discomfort with Facebook's role as an arbiter of what is appropriate content. "If you are a member of the Klan, and you have your banners up [on Facebook], and you are not saying 'let's go lynch black people,' then just having the Klan and your banners up is extremely offensive to me and I would love to see that not be there," said Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), another member of the CBC. "But I'm sure Facebook is not going to take it down just because they're saying, 'I'm in the Klu Klux Klan.'"

The bottom line: Lawmakers don't seem ready to push regulations more aggressive than new transparency requirements for political ads — at least this early in their inquiries. "I don't think we really know enough to make any recommendations at this point," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who met with Sandberg this week.

Go deeper: The New York Times breaks down Sandberg's tour.