Warner calls on Facebook to reconsider political ad policy

Warner calls on Facebook to reconsider political ad policy
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon 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 Microsoft embraces California law, shaking up privacy debate Google sparks new privacy fears over health care data MORE (D-Va.) is urging Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon 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 A book can explain why Elizabeth Warren's ideas bother billionaires so much Facebook says it removed millions of posts over hate speech, child exploitation violations MORE to reverse course on the company’s recently announced policy not to fact-check advertisements purchased by politicians. 

Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to Zuckerberg on Monday night questioning the shift in policy at Facebook in regards to political advertisements, with ads bought by politicians not subject to the same third-party fact-checking as other advertisements on the platform. 

“Facebook’s apparent lack of foresight or concern for the possible damages caused by this policy concerns me,” wrote Warner. 


Warner cited concerns that around 68 percent of Americans use Facebook and interact with the platform more than they do with traditional news sources such as television, but that the social media giant is not subject to the same strict rules around political advertising that TV, radio and broadcast organizations are. 

“In making strides not to continue contributing to the coarsening of our political debate, and the undermining of our public institutions, at a minimum, Facebook should at least adhere to the same norms of other traditional media companies when it comes to political advertising,” he wrote. 

Warner asked that Zuckerberg respond to questions within the next two weeks around how Facebook defines “politician” and how it defines exceptions to the policy that allow fact-checking in cases that the advertisement “endangers people.”

The Virginia senator also asked Zuckerberg to commit to providing “ad targeting information” to opposing campaigns to the politician who buys the ad in order for the other side to get a chance to respond to potential false information. 

Warner sent his letter the day after hundreds of Facebook employees wrote a separate letter to Zuckerberg protesting against the political ads policy and noting that they believed the company’s “current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for.”

Zuckerberg defended the policy during a House Financial Services Committee hearing last week, when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSanders says Ocasio-Cortez will play a 'very important role' in his administration if he's elected Top Sanders adviser suggests polling underestimates campaign support Omar renews claim Stephen Miller is a 'white nationalist' amid calls for him to step down MORE (D-N.Y.) sharply criticized him for the policy. 

Facebook did not respond to request for comment on Warner’s letter.

Zuckerberg told The Washington Post ahead of a speech at Georgetown University this month that “in a democracy, I think that people should be able to hear for themselves what politicians are saying,” adding that “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.”

Warner, along with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Graham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' GOP chairman says Senate impeachment trial could last 6-8 weeks MORE (R-N.C.) have led the panel’s bipartisan prob e into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections, with the committee most recently releasing volume two of their investigation earlier this month.

That volume focused on disinformation efforts, and included recommendations that social media platforms be more transparent with users if they are exposed to disinformation efforts. The committee found that Russia directed disinformation efforts ahead of the 2016 elections intended to favor President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE.