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Sen. Ted Cruz grills Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook political bias

During Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg's testimony before Congress Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he believes many Americans are "deeply concerned" about what he called Facebook's "pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship." 

The senator cited the 2016 controversy over how Facebook editors handled conservative-leaning political news in the trending topics feature. He also questioned why Facebook shut down certain pages it deems controversial, naming examples such as a "Chick-fil-A appreciation day" page, a post from a Fox News reporter, and Trump supporters Diamond and Silk's Facebook page. 

"Senator, let me say a few things about this. First, I understand where that concern is coming from because Facebook and the tech industry are located in the Silicon Valley which is an extremely left-leaning place," Zuckerberg said, addressing Cruz. "And this is actually a concern that I have and that I try to root out in the company — is making sure that we don't have any bias in the work that we do." 

He added that it was a "fair concern" before Cruz cut Zuckerberg off to ask if any left-leaning pages, like those of Planned Parenthood, Moveon.org, or Democratic candidates, had been shut down by Facebook. 

Zuckerberg said he was "not specifically aware" of any pages that may or may not have been shut down. 

Cruz pointed out that Facebook has 15,000 to 20,000 people working on security and content review, and asked if Zuckerberg was aware of those employees' political orientations.

"No, Senator, we do not generally ask people about their political orientation when they are joining the company," Zuckerberg replied. 

He added that no hiring or firing decisions have been made based on an individual's political affiliation or support of a particular candidate for office. 

Cruz pushed Zuckerberg on the firing of Palmer Luckey, the libertarian co-founder of the Facebook-aquired company Oculus VR.

"I can commit that it was not because of a political view," Zuckerberg said. 

Cruz quoted Zuckerberg's testimony from earlier, pointing out his view that Facebook has a responsibility to make sure it is fostering positive connections among people and that it ultimately serve as a tool used for the greater good. 

"Senator, I think that there are a number of things that we would all agree are clearly bad. Foreign interference in our election? Terrorism? Self-harm?" Zuckerberg said, naming examples of types of content Facebook is seeking to keep off the site.

Cruz, whose 2016 presidential campaign worked with Cambridge Analytica, the data consulting firm at the center of the Facebook data sharing scandal, cut Zuckerberg off and steered the discussion back to censorship.

"I am very committed to making sure that Facebook is a platform for all ideas," Zuckerberg insisted. "That is a very important founding principle of what we do. We're proud of the discourse and the different ideas that people can share on the service. And that is something that, as long as I'm running the company, I'm going to be committed to making sure is the case." 

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    Blair Guild is a politics reporter and video producer for CBS News Digital.