Facebook, which is under fire for plausibly spreading misinformation and investigated for possible antitrust violations, does not fact-check political ads that are present on the platform, company CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said. He argued that it’s not right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy. Defending his stand, the executive also said that the social media giant is ‘not an outlier here and other major internet platforms and the vast majority of media also run these same ads.’
‘We recently clarified our policies to ensure people can see primary source speech from political figures that shapes civic discourse. Political advertising is more transparent on Facebook than anywhere else — we keep all political and issue ads in an archive so everyone can scrutinize them, and no TV or print does that. We don’t fact-check political ads. We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying,’ Zuckerberg said.
The CEO argued that political ads are an important part of voice, especially for the local candidates as well as advocacy groups that do not get much media attention. He believes that banning political ads would favour the incumbents and whoever the media covers. ‘Even if we wanted to ban political ads, it’s not clear where we’d draw the line. There are many more ads about issues than there are directly about elections,’ he said.
Zuckerberg’s remarks follow a recent controversy in which Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren posted ads on Facebook in which she declared that Zuckerberg supports US President Donald Trump’s re-election. Warren later admitted that the claim made in the ads is not correct but also criticised the big tech companies’ monopoly held on social networks. She, along with American attorney and Republican politician Josh Hawley, has been advocating that the company should be broken up.
The Facebook CEO also talked about the misinformation, which is arguably disseminated on and through the platform. He said that if some content is newsworthy, Facebook won’t take it down even if it would otherwise conflict with many of the company’s standards. ‘That’s why we work with independent fact checkers to stop hoaxes that are going viral from spreading. But misinformation is a pretty broad category,’ he noted.
On hate speech, the executive said that the company takes down content that could lead to real world violence. ‘If you say immigrants are vermin, or all Muslims are terrorists — that makes others feel they can escalate and attack that group without consequences. So we don’t allow that. I take this incredibly seriously, and we work hard to get this off our platform,’ the CEO said.