Following Wednesday’s meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other conservative leaders, Zac Moffatt, the former digital director for Mitt Romney and co-founder of digital-strategy company Targeted Victory, spoke with TIME about his thoughts on the meeting and how Silicon Valley may affect the 2016 election.
Moffatt said that he appreciated the chance to discuss both the specific allegations against Facebook and the broader issue of systemic bias at tech companies.
“I do fundamentally believe that there is structural ideological bias that occurs at these companies, probably not consciously, but just in the type of staff that they hire and the physical location,” he said.
And the issue goes beyond Facebook, Moffatt said.
“This is a Silicon Valley issue—at a minimum,” he said. “That’s something we have to think about. Half the country thinks one way, and half the country thinks another. It’s one thing when you’re trying to sell more widgets, it’s another when you’re participating in democracy.”
We should encourage tech companies to be transparent about their policies and practices, Moffatt said. And acknowledge that the issue goes beyond partisan politics.
“There’s a positive of Silicon Valley in that you have so many people who are talented and like-minded working together,” he said. “But group thought is a very dangerous thing. I’d argue that Hillary Clinton probably agree with this, too,” Moffatt said. “She’s probably upset that no Democrat likes her from Silicon Valley because they want to be with Bernie Sanders. It’s not entirely a Republican thing.“
And regardless of possible bias, in today’s digital age, campaigns can’t risk ignoring the opportunity to connect with voters on social media, Moffatt said.
“I’m less worried about biases in a company than a campaign’s understanding and willingness to leverage those tools to be successful in 2016.”