After a chorus of Democrats came down hard on Facebook after CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company would continue to distribute political ads without fact checking them, the company is now ‘mulling’ changes to how such ads are treated, according to CNN. That said, the company will continue to allow politicians to run unverified advertisements.
Facebook is considering changes to how political ads can be targeted, how ads are labeled, and providing more information about who is paying for an ad, the source told CNN Thursday.
While the policy changes may satisfy some of the company’s critics, Facebook will likely face continued backlash for its fact-checking policy. –CNN
“In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians, or the news,” Zuckerberg said during last Wednesday’s earnings call.
Facebook has allowed advertisers to target small groups – including specific groups of users, with ads. Critics have suggested that this could undermine political discourse by making it less likely rival campaigns and the press will be able to identify the ads and disprove them or mount counter-arguments.
Notably, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – who still appears to be having issues accepting the results of the 2016 election decried a “war on truth” last week, and suggested that “Mark Zuckerberg should pay a price for what he is doing to our democracy.”
“Part of our problem, those of us who are appalled by this war on truth and this fake news which is truly surrounding us these days, is we’re not very good at combating it. It’s hard because you’re up against algorithms, plus all these other powerful forces, it’s really hard,” she added.
Also opposing targeted political ads is Bill Gates and Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden.
Quid Pro Joe?
The Facebook advertising firestorm was ignited in mid-October after a pro-Trump PAC released a 30-second video accusing former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter of blackmailing Ukrainian officials to stop an investigation into a natural gas company who was paying Hunter to sit on its board.
In early October President Trump tweeted the ad, which several networks have refused to run.
Sleepy Joe Biden! pic.twitter.com/oZtytImXqq
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2019
In response, the Biden campaign wrote a letter to Facebook in which they said “The ad contains transparently false allegations, prominently debunked by every major media outlet in the country over recent weeks. It should be rejected.”
Facebook declined to remove the ad (as have Twitter and YouTube).
“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,’ said Katie Harbath, Facebook’s public policy director for global elections. “Thus, when a politician speaks or makes an ad, we do not send it to third party fact checkers.”