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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visits Washington amid data privacy scrutiny

(Bloomberg) --Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is visiting Washington as the company confronts growing scrutiny over its privacy and marketplace practices.

Zuckerberg will “meet with policy makers and talk about future internet regulation,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement.

Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, and other senators had dinner with Zuckerberg in Washington, Rachel Cohen, a Warner spokeswoman, said in a statement released Wednesday night.

“The participants had a discussion touching on multiple issues, including the role and responsibility of social media platforms in protecting our democracy, and what steps Congress should take to defend our elections, protect consumer data, and encourage competition in the social media space,” Cohen said.

Her statement did not identify the other senators, but said that Warner had helped organize the dinner “at Facebook’s request.”

Zuckerberg is scheduled to meet with Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State, according to a person familiar with the plans. Cantwell is the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which is weighing privacy legislation.

Zuckerberg will also meet with House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California, said another person familiar with the matter, who on Wednesday night declined to say exactly when the meeting would take place or provide additional information.

Senator Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, is also working on scheduling a get-together with Zuckerberg, a senior Senate aide said.

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Zuckerberg is not scheduled to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to a person familiar with the matter. Democrats castigated the company earlier this year after it failed to remove a doctored video of Pelosi. She has snubbed at least two meetings with him, Bloomberg has reported.

Zuckerberg’s Washington visit comes as Facebook is battling criticism from lawmakers over its handling of users’ personal information, the proliferation of violent content and election interference by foreign operatives. The company is also facing antitrust investigations of its business practices from federal, congressional and state authorities.

On Wednesday, lawmakers from the Senate Commerce Committee grilled executives from Facebook, Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google over the spread of extremism and violence on digital platforms.

Separately, the Federal Trade Commission has opened an antitrust probe of the company, and New York is leading a coalition of states in a wide-ranging investigation of the social media giant. In July, Facebook agreed to pay $5 billion to settle FTC allegations it violated users’ privacy.

The House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee is also investigating competition issues in the technology industry. Last week, the panel sent a letter to Facebook seeking information about its acquisitions as well as communications from Zuckerberg, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, former general counsel Colin Stretch and policy chief Kevin Martin.

The company is trying to win over lawmakers threatening to stymie its launch of a new digital currency called Libra that its executives say can lower costs and expand access to the banking system in developing countries. The project faced bipartisan scorn during congressional hearings in July, even leading to legislative proposals that would kill it.

--With assistance from Billy House, Joe Light and Ben Brody