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CNN president calls out Facebook over 'absolutely ludicrous' policy on political ads

CNN president calls out Facebook over 'absolutely ludicrous' policy on political ads
© Greg Nash

CNN President Jeff Zucker on Thursday denounced Facebook for what he called its "absolutely ludicrous" policy that exempts political advertisements from fact-checking. 

"[Facebook] took so much heat, rightly so, for what happened in 2016 and for the political advertising that aired on there," Zucker said during a CNN Citizen conference. "And now they say that political advertising is just a tiny part of their business, but that they’re not going to fact-check anything and they’re going to take all political advertising whether it is true or not. I think that is absolutely ludicrous and I think that they should be called out."

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Zucker went on to cite his network's policy surrounding advertisements, saying that CNN has already turned down two ads from President TrumpDonald TrumpGiuliani used provisional ballot to vote in 2020 election, same method he disparaged in fighting to overturn results Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Fox News' DC managing editor Bill Sammon to retire MORE's reelection campaign because they didn't meet its standards. 

"We have an obligation at CNN, if a political ad comes along and it’s not true, we’re not going to take it," he said. "We’ve turned down I think two ads from the Trump campaign. We’ve taken two. We don’t have anything against taking those ads. But we’re only going to take them when they’re truthful."

"Facebook should have the same standards, and frankly, given what happened in 2016, maybe they should just sit out this election and not take any political advertising until they can figure it out and get it right," Zucker added.

The comments came as Facebook and CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergOcasio-Cortez: Facebook, Zuckerberg 'bear partial responsibility' for insurrection 'Nationalize' Facebook and Twitter as public goods Amazon cites death threats in push to keep Parler offline MORE face a swarm of scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers over its policies surrounding content and ads shared by lawmakers. The company announced in September that it would not remove posts or advertisements from political figures if they violated its community rules.

Zuckerberg has consistently stood by the new policy, asserting in a speech in Washington, D.C., earlier this month that Facebook should not be in a position to moderate politicians' content. 

“Political ads on Facebook are more transparent than anywhere else,” Zuckerberg said. “We don’t fact-check 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."

Critics have pushed back, arguing that Facebook has an important responsibility to combat disinformation and harassment on the platform, especially during an election cycle. Multiple Democratic presidential candidates objected in early October after the company permitted the Trump campaign to run an ad pushing unsubstantiated allegations against 2020 presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenWoman accused of trying to sell Pelosi laptop to Russians arrested Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Trump moves to lift coronavirus travel restrictions on Europe, Brazil MORE

Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo said at the time that the spread of "objectively false information to influence public opinion poisons the public discourse and chips away at our democracy.”

CNN said that it rejected the same ad, which includes images of some of its journalists, because it didn't meet the network's "advertising standards."

Zuckerberg faced several questions regarding the new ad policy during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on the Capitol Wednesday. After being asked by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: Facebook, Zuckerberg 'bear partial responsibility' for insurrection Belfast's Troubles echo in today's Washington AOC's Ministry of Truth MORE (D-N.Y.) if she could "pay to target predominantly black zip codes and advertise them the incorrect election date," Zuckerberg said that she couldn't, before emphasizing that the platform would take down political ads that incite violence or lead to voter suppression.