Zuckerberg defends allowing misinformation in campaign ads

Zuckerberg defends allowing misinformation in campaign ads
© Aaron Schwartz

Facebook founder and CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFemale lawmakers pressure Facebook to crack down on disinformation targeting women leaders Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns 20 state AGs call on Facebook to take greater steps to combat hate speech, online harassment 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 TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE’s reelection campaign released an advertisement accusing former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Biden clarifies comments comparing African American and Latino communities Kanye West may have missed deadline to get on Wisconsin ballot by minutes: report 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 WarrenBiden VP race is highly fluid days before expected pick Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package 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 PelosiCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays 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.