Why Conservatives Better Think Twice Before Regulating Facebook

Republican senators joined the pile-on during the Mark Zuckerberg hearing, but former campaign adviser for Ted Cruz urges caution

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 11 Apr 2018 at 5:49 PM

Although Republican senators peppered Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with hard questions Tuesday, a conservative data expert argued Wednesday that the GOP ought to resist the regulation urge.

Chris Wilson, who served as director of data and digital strategy for Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that Facebook’s seemingly liberal leanings understandably has raised the ire of conservatives.

But Wilson said Facebook has helped conservative activists in many ways.

“We Republicans and conservatives have been a little bit too quick to jump on the anti-Facebook bandwagon here,” he said. “Clearly there are issues … that have to be dealt with. But at the same time, what Facebook gives us are kind of the same things your program gives us, which is the ability to bypass the liberal media, the mainstream media, and take our message directly to voters.”

Wilson said Facebook offers advantages even over conservative media outlets.

"We can reach people directly," he said. "And we can reach people who are swing voters. We can reach people who are interested in specific issues. Those that care about tax cuts. Those that care about education. Those that care about lives. And that is an important distinction, and there's no other utility that conservatives have that allow us to achieve that."

Republican senators who grilled Zuckerberg during his appearance Tuesday, however, focused on Facebook's failings. That includes Cruz (R-Texas), who reeled off a number of conservative groups whose Facebook pages had been shut down.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested during the hearing that Facebook was like an electrical utility.

"Is there real competition that you face? … Is there an alternative to Facebook in the private sector?" he asked.

Zuckerberg seemed to stumble over the question but said there are many companies that overlap Facebook's mission.

"You don't feel like you have a monopoly?" Graham asked.

Answered Zuckerberg: "It certainly doesn't feel like that to me."

Graham demanded to know why Congress should let Facebook self-regulate.

Zuckerberg replied that he is not against regulation as long as it is "the right regulation."

Related: Zuckerberg Promises to Crack Down on 'Hate Speech'

Graham put a fine point on it after the hearing, issuing a statement in which he referenced a "dark side" that Congress needs to address. He added that "contrary to Mr. Zuckerberg's assertion, Facebook is a virtual monopoly and monopolies need to be regulated."

Wilson told Ingraham that regulating Facebook could have unintended consequences. Better to "let the market run its course," he added.

Wilson said some legislative proposals seem reasonable, such as one that would require transparency in political ads run on Facebook. But he said it is dangerous to pass a law requiring Facebook ads to be true, as some have suggested.

"It then becomes a question of who is going to regulate the truth," he said. "But I don't really have a problem with the disclosure-transparency being the same that is done in regular political advertising."

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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