Facebook staff call for greater scrutiny of political ads

29 Oct 2019

Image: PA Media

A group of employees has signed an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg urging the social network to increase scrutiny of political advertising.

Facebook staff have called on boss Mark Zuckerberg to increase scrutiny on political advertising in order to stop the spread of misinformation on the platform.

Hundreds of employees at the social network have signed an open letter urging the company to reconsider a policy which allows politicians to make claims not subject to fact-checking in political adverts.

Facebook has said it will not subject most political advertising to fact-checking, instead only banning adverts that contain claims that have been debunked by third-party fact-checkers.

The letter warns that not scrutinising claims made in such adverts could allow politicians to “weaponise” the platform and increase distrust in the site.

According to the New York Times, which published a copy of the letter, Facebook staff called on executives at the company to “hold political ads to the same standards as other ads”, arguing that “free speech and paid speech are not the same thing”.

It also called on Facebook to make political advertising clearer on the platform, restrict the amount of targeting political campaigns can undertake with adverts and introduce a spending cap for individual politicians purchasing advertising.

Facebook has said it will not censor freedom of expression in political advertising and, earlier this month, Zuckerberg used a speech to criticise censorship on the internet and argued that free speech was important to social progress.

In response to the staff open letter, a Facebook spokesperson said: “Facebook’s culture is built on openness so we appreciate our employees voicing their thoughts on this important topic.

“We remain committed to not censoring political speech, and we will continue exploring additional steps we can take to bring increased transparency to political ads.”

Zuckerberg recently appeared in front of the House Financial Services Committee to field questions about his prospective cryptocurrency, Libra. During this hearing, representatives took the opportunity to quiz the CEO over his business practices.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked Zuckerberg whether she would hypothetically be allowed to buy political ads on the platforming falsely claiming that Republican politicians had voted in favour of the Green New Deal, to which he responded: “I think probably.”

– PA Media, with additional reporting by Eva Short