When Mark Zuckerberg Looks Like a Statesman

The Barometer is no fan of Mark Zuckerberg, his hoodies, or his company, Facebook. However, it is a commentary on the intellectual level of members of congress when the man who became a billionaire through a marketing scheme planted within an addictive social media site looks like a sage. Mr. Zuckerberg was up on the Hill looking to win support for Facebook’s cryptocurrency, Libra. Sure, Zuckerberg and fake currency – what could possibly go wrong there? However, the members of congress did not want to zero on on that scary proposition. Nay, nay. They wanted Zuckerberg to pledge to take down political ads that contained “lies.” The ubiquitous Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was loaded for bear.

AOC: “Could I run ads targeting republicans in primaries saying they voted for the Green New Deal?”
“Do you see a problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?”
“So you will take down lies or you won’t take down lies? I think this is a pretty simple yes or no.”

Mr. Zuckerberg did not provide an answer, but should have explained the policy his company came up with (not sure Mr. Zuckerberg came up with it, which explains why he was stumped). He did well when he offered an explanation when he spoke recently at a law school. Someone at Facebook figured out that fact-checking political ads would consume their resources. Shades of truth, opinion, phrasing, and other content in all ads are misleading. Check out the infomercials for cooking pans alone.

Are there misleading statements in political ads? Absolutely. Are there misleading statements in speeches by members of congress? ‘Tis why they exist. Are there misleading statements at the UN, the state of the union address, and Parliament? The Honorable AOC needs to learn the old joke, “How can you tell when a politician is lying?” “When his lips are moving.” Or hers. Like the AOC whopper about the world ending in 12 years. That she honestly believes that factoid does not make it true. Or the time she posted footage of her crying at the border as she hung onto a chain-link fence because of the detained children. The problem was that there was just a tree and a Ford Explorer on the other side of the fence, but no detained children.

An AOC staffer offered justification, “But she could see the entrance!” True or false photo op? You decide. The point being that Facebook is right in its policy even if its CEO cannot always articulate it. Zuckerberg lucked out by not answering because whether true or false, political ads need voter discretion, analysis, and reflection. Voters do it well. Facebook has proven unreliable on the issue of disclosure in the past. Designating this crowd as an arbiter of truth would be playing with fire. The prism of self-righteousness in the members of congress does not allow them to see the risk. To his credit, Mr. Zuckerberg does.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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