Activist Sharpton takes Facebook ad concerns to Zuckerberg's home

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[November 05, 2019]  By Elizabeth Culliford

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton said he had a "no-holds-barred meeting" with Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook Inc <FB.O> CEO's home on Monday over the company's decision not to fact-check ads and other content from politicians.

The meeting, which Sharpton said lasted nearly two hours at Zuckerberg's Palo Alto house, included multiple civil rights activists and Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

"We told him that we feel that the exemption for politicians could be used to suppress voting, give wrong messaging and could suppress census taking," Sharpton told Reuters in a phone interview on Monday after the meeting.

"He listened," said Sharpton, who had sent Zuckerberg a letter to request the meeting. "He made no firm commitments of change but he seemed open," he added.



Zuckerberg told Congress last month Facebook would take down content from politicians that could risk voter or census suppression. Sharpton said, however, he thought that a wide array of content from politicians could indirectly cause such suppression.

Ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November 2020, Facebook's policy has also been slammed by Democratic candidates and was recently criticized by some of its employees in an internal letter.

Twitter Inc's <TWTR.N> decision last week to ban all political advertising has also heightened scrutiny of its larger rival's stance.

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Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Breakfast hosted by him and National Action Network, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2019. REUTERS/Allison Shelley

Facebook said in a statement it was grateful that the civil rights leaders took the time to attend the dinner with Zuckerberg and Sandberg.

"They discussed a range of important issues and we look forward to continuing these conversations," the statement said.

Zuckerberg defended the policy in an earnings call last week, saying Facebook did not want to stifle political speech. He also estimated that ads from politicians would be less than 0.5% of revenue next year.

Sharpton, who had sent a letter to Zuckerberg requesting a meeting, said he would next ask for a meeting with Alphabet's <GOOGL.O> Google about its stance on the same issue. He said he also wanted to meet with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Critics of Facebook's policy have run intentionally false ads to highlight the issue. These include ads from Senator Elizabeth Warren's campaign claiming Zuckerberg had endorsed President Donald Trump and a left-leaning group's video claiming Republican Senator Lindsey Graham backed the Green New Deal climate proposal.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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