If you violate Facebook’s rules, Facebook can force you to remove the offending content, or temporarily ban you, or permanently ban you.
If a politician violates those same rules, Facebook now officially won’t do squat.
In a speech at the Atlantic Festival in Washington Tuesday, Facebook Vice President Nick Clegg said the company will, by default, consider everything politicians post to be “newsworthy content” that is governed by different rules than most of the rest of the site.
“From now on we will treat speech from politicians as newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard,” Clegg said in a blog. “This means that if someone makes a statement or shares a post which breaks our community standards we will still allow it on our platform if we believe the public interest in seeing it outweighs the risk of harm.”
In practice, this will mean denials that World War II’s Holocaust occurred would be permitted ― so long as it was a politician making the thoroughly bogus and discredited claim that Nazi Germany did not commit the genocide of an estimated six million Jews.
Asked about such a claim, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost that it wouldn’t be seen as breaking the site’s community standards and would not be subject to fact-checking.
The spokesperson told HuffPost the company decided to make the change ahead of upcoming elections globally and in the U.S.
Under the policy, content posted by politicians doesn’t have to be accurate or true. Indeed, for more than a year Facebook has exempted politicians from scrutiny otherwise applied by third-party fact-checkers.
“We do not submit speech by politicians to our independent fact-checkers, and we generally allow it on the platform even when it would otherwise breach our normal content rules,” said Clegg.
“Of course, there are exceptions,” he added. “Broadly speaking they are two-fold: where speech endangers people; and where we take money, which is why we have more stringent rules on advertising than we do for ordinary speech and rhetoric.”
It’s unclear how serious Facebook is about enforcing that first exception.
Earlier this month, Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain (R) sent a death threat to his fellow Texan, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, on Twitter after the Democratic presidential candidate proposed a mandatory gun buyback of some semiautomatic weapons.
Twitter deleted Cain’s tweet two hours later, explaining it violated the site’s terms because it threatened violence. Asked Tuesday if Facebook would have done the same, the spokesperson declined to make a judgment.