Facebook chief hosts conservative guests amid bias debate

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he has hosted dinners with conservative figures to hear from a 'range of viewpoints' (AFP Photo/JOSH EDELSON)

San Francisco (AFP) - Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Monday confirmed reports that he had hosted a series of dinners with right-wing figures, as the social media platform stands accused of stifling conservative voices.

Zuckerberg held small, off-the-record dinners with journalists, commentators and at least one Republican lawmaker to talk about free speech, partnerships and other issues, the Politico news website said.

"There's some press today discussing dinners I've had with conservative politicians, media and thinkers," Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.

"Meeting new people and hearing from a wide range of viewpoints is part of learning. If you haven't tried it, I suggest you do!"

Politico said that guests at recent events, held at Zuckerberg's various homes in California, included Fox News host Tucker Carlson, radio talk host Hugh Hewitt and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

US President Donald Trump has often complained that social media outlets discriminate against him and his supporters, without providing evidence.

Politico said the dinners, which began in July, were part of Zuckerberg's efforts to communicate with conservatives amid the accusations from Trump and his allies of bias.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have been under pressure to reduce the spread of lies and misinformation.

But the platforms have also allowed politicians including Trump leeway over their user rules, seeking to avoid quashing debate and to keep "newsworthy" content online.

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden recently asked Facebook to take down "debunked" claims in a Trump ad, only to be rebuffed.