Zuckerberg defends allowing misinformation in campaign ads

Zuckerberg defends allowing misinformation in campaign ads
© Aaron Schwartz

Facebook founder and CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Civil rights groups demand changes to Facebook's political speech policy Hillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day MORE on Thursday defended his company’s controversial decision of allowing politicians to post political ads with misleading or false claims on its platform, saying it’s “something we have to live with.”

“People worry, and I worry deeply, too, about an erosion of truth,” Zuckerberg told The Washington Post ahead of a speech at Georgetown University. “At the same time, I don’t think people want to live in a world where you can only say things that tech companies decide are 100 percent true. And I think that those tensions are something we have to live with.

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“In general, in a democracy, I think that people should be able to hear for themselves what politicians are saying," Zuckerberg continued. "Often, the people who call the most for us to remove content are often the first to complain when its their content that falls on the wrong side of a policy.”

In his 35-minute speech at Georgetown Thursday afternoon, Zuckerberg elaborated on that defense, saying that having tech company's moderate content could be dangerous.

“Political ads on Facebook are more transparent than anywhere else,” Zuckerberg said. “We don’t factcheck political ads… because we believe people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.

“I know many people disagree, but in general I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy. And we are not an outlier here.”

Zuckerberg said that the company had considered banning political ads all together but rejected that approach.

“Political ads can be an important part of voice, especially for local candidates and up and coming challengers that the media might not otherwise cover,” he explained. “Banning political ads favors incumbents and whoever the media chooses to cover.” 

Zuckerberg and Facebook have received backlash over their policy, which came under scrutiny this month after President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE’s reelection campaign released an advertisement accusing former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Democrats release two new transcripts ahead of next public impeachment hearings Press: Ukraine's not the only outrage MORE — without evidence — of using his office to pressure Ukrainian officials to drop an investigation into a company where his son, Hunter Biden, sat on the board.

The Democratic National Committee called on Facebook to remove the "false ad." Cable network CNN has refused to run the ad, but Facebook has declined to remove it.

Facebook does have a third-party fact-checking program but for now has exempted posts and ads from political figures from that process. Critics argue that the social media giant is responsible for regulating ads on its platform, which reaches more than 2 billion people globally. But Facebook and free speech advocates say they are wary of giving tech companies authority over vetting political claims.

Democrats are keeping pressure on Facebook.

Biden’s 2020 contender, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenRahm Emanuel: Bloomberg, Patrick entering race will allow Democrats to have 'ideas primary' Feehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Jayapal hits back at Biden on marijuana 'prohibition' MORE (D-Mass.), has repeatedly hammered Facebook over the policy by running her own campaign ad that falsely claims that Zuckerberg supports Trump for re-election.

Facebook also came under fire earlier this year when it declined to take down a user-posted video of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Key GOP senator: 'We need a breakthrough' on spending talks Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran MORE (D-Calif.) that was doctored to make it seem like she was slurring her words.

Zuckerberg told the Post that Facebook is “working through what our policy should be” when it comes to deepfake videos and is “getting pretty close to at least rolling out the first version of it.”

Zuckerberg will testify before the House Financial Services Committee next Wednesday in a hearing on his company’s plans to launch Libra, a new digital currency that has drawn scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators alike.

Updated at 3:13 p.m.