GOP's Matt Gaetz Files Criminal Referral Against Zuckerberg for Alleged False Statements Under Oath

Representative Matt Gaetz on Monday filed a criminal referral against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly making false statements to Congress during two joint hearings in April 2018.

Gaetz said Zuckerberg "repeatedly and categorically denied" Facebook engaged in bias against conservatives or censored content supportive of President Donald Trump. However, a Project Veritas investigation revealed the "overwhelming majority" of content Facebook's artificial intelligence filtered was in support of Trump and other Republican people and ideals.

The Republican congressman sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking the Department of Justice to investigate Zuckerberg. The statements in question were made during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing and again at a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

"As a member of this body, I question Mr. Zuckerberg's veracity, and challenge his willingness to cooperate with our oversight authority, diverting congressional resources during time-sensitive investigations, and materially impeding our work," Gaetz said in the letter. "Such misrepresentations are not only unfair, they are potentially illegal and fraudulent."

Newsweek reached out to Facebook for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

mark zuckerberg matt gaetz bill bar investigation
Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018, in Washington, D.C. On Monday, Congressman Matt Gaetz sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr referring Zuckerberg for investigation for making false statements to Congress while under oath. Alex Wong/Getty

Zuckerberg told senators at the April 10 hearing that he understood concerns legislators had about conservative censorship because Silicon Valley is an "extremely left-leaning place." He said he shared that concern and it's something he tries to root out in the company.

The next day, he responded to a question from Representative Steve Scalise by saying there was "absolutely no directive" to have a bias in "anything that we do."

"To the contrary, our goal is to be a platform for all ideas," Zuckerberg said.

During Project Veritas' undercover investigation, a Facebook content moderator said she would delete every Republican item that showed up on her queue. She added that she doesn't remove anti-Trump content, even if it violates the policy.

"If someone is wearing a MAGA hat, I am going to delete them for terrorism," another moderator said. "I think we are all doing that."

At the time of the investigation's release, James O'Keefe, Project Veritas' founding CEO, said the findings raised "serious doubts" about Zuckerberg's testimony on Capitol Hill. O'Keefe added the report called into question Facebook's immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Gaetz wrote in the letter to Barr that the findings of the Project Veritas investigation were in "direct contrast" with Zuckerberg's testimony that Facebook was a "politically-neutral platform."

"Facebook's AI screening content is not politically neutral. Neither are the moderators hired to review content flagged by the AI program," Gaetz told Barr. "This stands in opposition to Mr. Zuckerberg's congressional testimony, and violates the "good faith" provision of Section 230(c)(2)(A) of the Communications Decency Act."

The congressman asked Barr to investigate Zuckerberg for making materially false statements to Congress while testifying under oath and asked for "full and proper consideration."