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Warner calls on Facebook to reconsider political ad policy

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

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerNew US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations Democrats brace for new 'defund the police' attacks Intelligence leaders push for mandatory breach notification law MORE (D-Va.) is urging Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference Instagram sparks new concerns over 'kidfluencer' culture Mark Zuckerberg, meet Jean-Jacques Rousseau? 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-CortezOn The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since lockdowns | Retail sales surge in March | Dow, S&P hit new records Ocasio-Cortez says she disagrees with holding up infrastructure over SALT Democrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico 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 BurrFormer Gov. Pat McCrory enters GOP Senate race in North Carolina Lara Trump leads GOP field in North Carolina Senate race, poll shows Former North Carolina governor set to launch Senate bid 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 TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he MORE.