Warner calls on Facebook to reconsider political ad policy

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

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocrats call for declassifying election threats after briefing by Trump officials It's time to upgrade benefits Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings MORE (D-Va.) is urging Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: FBI, DHS warn that foreign hackers will likely spread disinformation around election results | Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day | Trump to meet with Republican state officials on tech liability shield Facebook to 'restrict the circulation of content' if chaos results from election: report 2.5 million US users register to vote using Facebook, Instagram, Messenger 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. 

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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-CortezWells Fargo CEO issues apology after saying there was a 'limited pool of Black talent' Brand responds to Trump claim protesters throw tuna cans at police: 'Eat em, don't throw em' CNN's Don Lemon: 'Blow up the entire system' remark taken out of context 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 BurrRep. Mark Walker says he's been contacted about Liberty University vacancy Overnight Defense: Trump rejects major cut to military health care | Senate report says Trump campaign's Russia contacts posed 'grave' threat Senate report describes closer ties between 2016 Trump campaign, Russia 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 TrumpBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Romney: 'Unthinkable and unacceptable' to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE.