Facebook refuses to fact-check political ads, and it's infuriating employees and lawmakers. Here's why the issue has become Facebook's latest major controversy. (FB)

Business Insider Politics 0 month ago
  • The last few weeks have been especially tumultuous for Facebook.
  • The latest issue concerns political advertising on Facebook, and Facebook's policy not to fact-check that advertising.
  • "Facebook exempts politicians from our third-party fact-checking program," VP of global affairs and communication Nick Clegg wrote in late September. "We rely on third-party fact-checkers to help reduce the spread of false news and other types of viral misinformation, like memes or manipulated photos and videos."
  • "We don't believe, however, that it's an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician's speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny," Clegg said.
  • Facebook execs have defended the controversial decision with arguments about freedom of speech, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg even delivered an hour-long speech at Georgetown University where he argued Facebook's stance. 
  • Here's why Facebook's stance on political ads stance has become so controversial, and where the situation is at right now.  
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Facebook is embroiled in yet another controversy, but this time it's not about your data: It's about foreign interference in American elections, and partisan politics, and freedom of speech.

It all stems from a relatively simple announcement Facebook recently made about how its advertising works. In short, Facebook refuses to fact-check political ads that run on its platform.

"We don't fact-check political ads," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a wide-ranging speech at Georgetown University in mid-October. "We don't do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. And if content is newsworthy, we also won't take it down even if it would otherwise conflict with many of our standards."

But that decision — one that Zuckerberg frames around freedom of speech and American traditional values — has proved highly controversial. Here's what's going on.

In late September, Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs and communications, laid out Facebook's policy on political ads: "Facebook exempts politicians from our third-party fact-checking program."

Facebook says this isn't about the money it makes from running political ads.

So, what is it about? According to Zuckerberg, it's about free speech.

Critics — including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — argue that Facebook is doing a disservice to the public by not fact-checking political ads. Facebook's own employees wrote a letter to Zuckerberg challenging the decision.

No matter where you land on the controversy, one thing is for certain: It's a tremendously complicated issue.


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