Facebook recently changed its policy on political ads posted on its platform that will have devasting effects regarding disinformation. In late Septemeber, it was discovered that Facebook had a feature for ads that were used to spread disinformation as advertisers can alter the displayed headline for news stories. This recent incident happened to a BBC article and Facebook said it was going to put additional safeguards in place.
The company’s policies concerning political ads prohibited false and misleading content but things are about to get worse as that policy was changed to remove that language. Facebook prohibits ads that include claims debunked by third-party fact-checkers. However, political ads are exempted from this new policy. This means they can lie even after claims in their ads have been debunked by fact-checkers.
Why did Facebook let the Trump campaign run an ad with an obvious lie about Biden, one that's been debunked by independent fact-checkers?
— Ryan McCarthy (@mccarthyryanj) October 3, 2019
Judd Legum who runs popular.info newsletter noticed that a Trump ad was still up even after it was fact-checked as false by PolitiFact and FactFactCheck.org, two Facebook approved third-party fact-checkers. Facebook says the ad does not violate its policies.
Facebook, with its billions of dollars, apparently can't manage to apply standards that local TV stations have used for decades https://t.co/IX8Y8liVhf
— Aaron Strauss (@aaron_strauss) October 3, 2019
— Alex Howard (@digiphile) October 3, 2019
Profit from Disinformation
This new policy is set to give Facebook alot of profits. Trump already spends $1.5 million per week on Facebook. As the 2020 US Presidential Election heats up and other elections globally, politicians will use this policy to spread disinformation by posting ads with false information and Facebook wouldn’t do a thing about it as it doesn’t violate its policies.
Facebook and Twitter are entirely responsible for our slide into darkness. Their refusal to place common-sense rules on *all* users of their platforms has netted us a turgid sack of feces as President* and fanned the flames of fear and hatred. https://t.co/PtpnuVJnXE
— Aaron Mahnke (@amahnke) October 3, 2019
— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) October 3, 2019
Dark days are coming
While speaking about the social media giant efforts to fight interference and misinformation in advance of the 2020 election, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs and Communications said that Facebook will not send organic content or ads from politicians to their third-party fact-checking partners for review.
This is worrying as in a leaked audio recording, Mark Zuckerberg said that he will fight Elizabeth Warren if she wins the 2020 Elections. The Democratic Presidential hopeful has been vocal saying that big tech companies should be broken up.
Elizabeth responded on Twitter saying:
What would really “suck” is if we don’t fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anticompetitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights, and repeatedly fumble their responsibility to protect our democracy. https://t.co/rI0v55KKAi
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 1, 2019
Tech pundits are already worried
Here’s an outlandish script: 1) Facebook sees Warren as an existential threat, 2) Facebook decides to “go to the mat” to prevent her presidency, 3) Facebook knows how effective highly targeted lies are as a political tool. 4) This… https://t.co/ER1YPceMwP
— DHH (@dhh) October 3, 2019
Between this decision & the fresh news that FB will keep up false ads from politicians (in addition to the already ominous news they were privileging politicians speech on FB as newsworthy!) my normal optimistic demeanor is getting a run for its money. https://t.co/CigaGN6JJJ https://t.co/auD78XAV4a
— Kate Klonick (@Klonick) October 3, 2019