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OTR Interviews

Facebook's meeting with conservatives: A PR ploy or important first step?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 18, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

 

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Rob Bluey, the editor-in-chief for the "Daily Signal" was inside that meeting in Facebook and chairman of the American Conservative Union Matt Schlapp turned down his invitation to go.

Matt and Rob both go ON THE RECORD.

First to you, Rob, Claudia characterized it as, quote, "a success."

Do you agree with that characterization and what makes it a success?

ROB BLUEY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "DAILY SIGNAL": Well, I think it was a first step. Let's put it that way. It was a conversation that I think Facebook should have had a while ago. It certainly opened the door. And I think that it will be a success if Facebook follows through and continues the conversation with conservatives. Not just conservatives, but I think they should be continuing the conversation with everybody in the political spectrum to make sure that they are treating all of this content fairly and they're not discriminating or suppressing any political points of view.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do they deny it?

BLUEY: He did not. They talked a little bit about the algorithm. There is actually a continuation of more meetings taking place right now on the campus in which they will go into greater detail. But I think one thing that came out was clear.

Certainly, they need to do a better job of educating both the publishers, conservative news sights and conservatives in general about how Facebook operates. And that was one thing that I think I took away this appreciation for transparency and a greater desire to have a conversation going forward.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rob, if you will hold on for a second.

Matt, you didn't go. Why didn't you go?

MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: That's right. I didn't go because I think this is a P.R. stunt. I think they need conservatives to sit around the table so that after the meeting, they can say we have met with all these conservatives and we had this great conversation going. And everything -- everything is going to be smoothed over with conservatives.

What I just heard from Rob, and I love Rob. Rob is a good guy. But what I just heard from Rob is they didn't apologize.

VAN SUSTEREN: They didn't admit it?

SCHLAPP: They didn't acknowledge they have a problem. They are doing their own investigation on this internally.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's why I said the fox out of the chicken coop.

SCHLAPP: That's right. This is an old Clinton ploy, right? Oh, we checked it out. Everything is fine. And they are not promising transparency. I want to see exactly how they treat conservatives and treat everyone.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rob, what did they say about doing the investigation? Why not give it to someone outside the organization? Zuckerberg say anything about that?

BLUEY: Yes. Well, two points. I do want to acknowledge that, Matt, they did acknowledge that they do have a problem, and I think that was one of the reasons that they had all the conservatives come out for this meeting.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it a problem with a P.R., or do they have a problem in that they are sorting through and deliberately massaging what goes in that trending section? Which is the problem?

BLUEY: So the trending section was just one piece of it. I mean, there was a conversation about the news feed and about certain conservative pages maybe getting blocked or taken off of Facebook so the conversation extended really beyond just trending topics which is a relatively minor piece.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: But see what I don't understand, Rob, what I don't understand is that they think the problem is they have a P.R. problem, or they think the problem is that they are doing it?

BLUEY: They certainly acknowledge that there was a problem with getting the message out to conservatives in terms of having correspondence and communication with them on a regular basis. And they need to do a better job of that. There was clear, clear distinction of that.

On the investigation piece, Greta, they are going to respond to Senator John Thune who is with the commerce committee and has promised an inquiry on this.

So we would expect to hear more from that soon. But nobody outside the organization of Facebook is planning to investigate. As far as I know, they will be conducting that internally.

VAN SUSTEREN: Matt, I was more sympathetic to Facebook until now. It looks like, it looks like that this was to me, and then I realize that Rob and Dana went there, and it was very good that they went there and talked. But they haven't said they have a problem beyond a P.R. problem.

SCHLAPP: Look. When you're going to really solve a problem, you don't start communicating. Communicating is not the problem with Facebook. Everyone has got a good relationship in and out of there.

What they have to do is acknowledged that they have done something wrong. There are whistle blowers pointing it out and they have to give us transparency.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: But is it wrong? Can't Facebook put whatever topics they want up there?

I mean, (INAUDIBLE) Facebook and "New York Times," what it does for the campaign.

SCHLAPP: I'm a conservative. I don't think the government needs to intervene and tell Facebook how to run its business. But you can't fraudulently explain that your business operates one way when it operates another way.

If they are the "New York Times" and "The Washington Post," and they want to run their company just like the lefty political contributions they make, it's their right. But we have the right to know that that's how the algorithm works.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rob, did they say the algorithm work -- go ahead.

BLUEY: No, I was going to say, to Matt's point, I mean, they acknowledge that. And I think they heard that message loud and clear from the conservatives who are in the room.

They said if Facebook is going to, pretend to be a neutral arbiter and be fair across the board, then they actually have to live up to those standards. And that's a high bar for them to perhaps meet.

But if they want to present themselves as a liberal entity like the "New York Times" or "Washington Post," just admit it and conservatives will know where they stand on the platform.

But as it stands, Facebook reaches over a billion people. There's a lot of conservatives who use it. I think the Heritage Foundation Daily Signal, we're going to continue to be active on Facebook because we know that that's a community where conservatives certainly value and there are some that will back away and probably step off of Facebook as a result of the recent P.R. controversy. But I think genuinely, this is a positive step.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me give Matt the last word on this.

SCHLAPP: You know what, well before Facebook called, they only called me when they had a problem. We met with Facebook. And we said, hey, help us understand how to use your platform. Help us. Help CPAC understand how we get our message out better. They really weren't interested in helping us.

VAN SUSTEREN: Until they got caught with their pants down.

SCHLAPP: They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Whatever.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes. That's probably a better description.

BLUEY: That's a little better.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, Matt and Rob, thank you both. Let's see what Facebook does or doesn't do.