Facebook CEO Zuckerberg meets with Trump, key senators on DC swing

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with President Trump at the White House Thursday, part of a series of visits with lawmakers who have been critical of the social media giant.

A Facebook spokesperson described the meeting with Trump as "good" and "constructive" and said Zuckerberg was in Washington "meeting with policymakers to hear their concerns and talk about future internet regulation." Trump also tweeted an image Thursday evening of himself shaking hands with Zuckerberg at the White House.

Zuckerberg's visit to Washington comes amid a fraught period for Facebook, with lawmakers calling for closer scrutiny of the company amid privacy and censorship bias concerns. Facebook currently faces an anti-trust probe led by state attorneys general as well as a separate antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). That agency slapped Facebook with a $5 billion fine over the company’s privacy policies, and the company agreed to enact new oversight on how the company utilizes user data.

The fine was the largest the FTC has ever levied on a tech company, far surpassing the $22.5 million it fined Google in 2012.

Trump has persistently criticized social media companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon and his platform of choice, Twitter, embracing conservative critics' accusations that they censor religious, anti-abortion and politically conservative views. Trump has claimed, without evidence, that the companies are "against me" and even suggested U.S. regulators should sue them on grounds of anti-conservative bias.


Zuckerberg also met with Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who has proposed a bill to ban features which enable limitless scrolling, autoplay and other addictive features on social media. Hawley said on Twitter that he asked the Facebook founder to show he was "serious about bias, privacy & competition" and sell WhatsApp and Instagram as well as submit to a third-party audit on censorship.

"He said no to both," Hawley tweeted.

During his visit, Zuckerberg also met with other senators including Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mike Lee, R-Utah, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark. He declined to answer questions from reporters during his visits.

At Facebook's request, Warner helped organize a dinner meeting in Washington on Wednesday night for Zuckerberg and a group of senators. Warner told The Associated Press he wanted Zuckerberg to hear his Senate colleagues' "enormous concerns about privacy and about protecting the integrity of our political system."


Their message for the Facebook chief was "self-regulation is not going to be the answer," Warner said. "I think Zuckerberg understood that."

Warner and Hawley have proposed legislation that would force the tech giants to tell users what data they're collecting and how much it's worth. The proposal goes to the heart of Big Tech's hugely profitable business model of commerce in users' personal data. The companies gather vast data on what users read and like, and leverage it to help advertisers target their messages to individuals they want to reach.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.