Facebook’s announcement in September 2019 that it would allow politicians to lie in ads on its platform ignites more controversy for the social media giant. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has already faced Congress over breaches of privacy. But the company was quick to start making exceptions and that it will fact-check certain political ads following an outcry from politicians and activists.
Why Facebook’s Ad Policy Is Controversial
Public debate over Facebook’s “free market” policy erupted after the social network refused to remove a Trump campaign ad that makes a false claim about presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter regarding Ukraine. Other mass media giants including MSNBC, Fox, YouTube, and Twitter declined to remove the ad as well. Facebook turned out to get the most backlash from the decision.
Facebook Feels the Pressure
In late October Zuckerberg faced Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in the House of Representatives, admitting to her he would “probably” allow her to run false ads against Republicans that support the New Green Deal. Zuckerberg defended his initial policy until his own employees sent him messages to rethink it.
Facebook did decide to remove a false ad from a political action committee called Really Online Lefty League. The group deliberately made the fake claim Senator Lindsey Graham (R-CA) supports the Green New Deal. Facebook announced it took the ad down due to the fact it came from a political action group, which follows different rules than politicians.
A PAC member named Adriel Hampton responded by filing to run for California governor, which theoretically allowed him to run as many fake ads as he wanted on Facebook. Facebook then said it would make Hampton’s ads eligible for fact-checking since it was clear he was only trying to work around Facebook’s policies.
Facebook, which earns its billions from digital advertising, prefers to be a revenue collector more than a content regulator. The controversy will likely continue through the 2020 election as reality, fiction, satire all mix together.