WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Facebook reiterated its policy to exclude politician’s speech and ads from its third-party checking program, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times and CNN.
- The letter was issued in response to a request from the Biden campaign to remove or reject an ad from President Trump’s reelection campaign that featured unsupported and false claims about Biden.
- Facebook Global elections policy chief, Katie Harbath, wrote that their reply is based on the company’s belief in freedom of expression and ‘respect for the democratic process’.
In response to a letter of request from Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, Facebook resolutely backed its policy of allowing speech from politicians to go unverified despite the truthfulness of their claims.
The Biden campaign’s letter to Facebook which was addressed to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg and global elections policy chief Katie Harbath, requested the removal or rejection of an ad from the Trump campaign that stated Joe Biden “offered Ukraine $1 billion to fire the prosecutor investigating a company affiliated with his son.”
This statement, according to their letter posted online by a CNN reporter, is false and not even supported by evidence.
A CNN spokesperson told NBC News last week that its refusal to air the advert was because “the ad makes assertions that have been proven demonstrably false by various news outlets.” However, tech companies including Twitter and YouTube are running the Trump ad.
In Facebook’s response, originally obtained by The New York Times and also posted by the CNN reporter, the company stressed its policy of taking a hands-off approach with a speech made by politicians.
Harbath wrote: “Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is. Thus, when a politician speaks or makes an ad, we do not send it to third party fact checkers.”
However, Harbath added that the company would limit the reach of a “viral hoax” shared by a politician that is different from a politician’s own statement, even though the “substance of that claim has been debunked elsewhere.” But an ad that is posted on a politician’s own website is considered direct speech and not qualified for the company’s third-party fact-checking program, Harbath explained.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minn.), also a 2020 presidential contender is among the many lawmakers who asserted that political advertising laws need to be amended to consider broader ad platforms available to campaign. She introduced the Honest Ads Act that would make paid internet, digital and public communications subject to disclosure and record-keeping laws.
Facebook declined to comment, while a Biden campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Source: CNBC News