Ahead of the 2020 US Presidential election and just weeks away from the UK General Election, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has dug in on his decision to allow the spread of false information on the social media platform.
Facebook allows paid advertisements with false claims provided they come from politicians, a policy many fear will continue to be exploited in upcoming democratic elections.
Hundreds of Facebook employees have signed an open letter to their CEO decrying the decision while Twitter has banned political advertising all together over fears of spreading misinformation. Facebook says it would be undemocratic to remove the false claims made by politicians and it does not want to be the “arbiter of truth”.
- Read more: Political Reach ‘Should Be Earned, Not Bought’: Twitter Bans Political Ads As Facebook Promotes False Ones
Challenged on the policy in an interview today on CBS, Zuckerberg doubled down.
“What I believe is that in a democracy, it’s really important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying, so they can make their own judgments.
“And, you know, I don’t think that a private company should be censoring politicians or news.”
Asked about the employee letter in which workers told Zuckerberg “Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing”, the Facebook chief said it was up to users to distinguish the two.
“Well, this is clearly a very complex issue, and a lot of people have, have a lot of different opinions,” Zuckerberg said. “At the end of the day, I just think that in a democracy, people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.”
When asked if that is possible with patently false claims, Zuckerberg said “people should be able to judge for themselves the character of politicians”.
Zuckerberg has consistently used the defence, including when being questioned by US Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Congress, who raised concerns the policy will be exploited in next year’s presidential campaigns.
Facebook’s stance has also already been exploited in Australia.
During Australia’s federal election campaign this year Facebook did not remove false claims that the Labor party would introduce a “death tax” if elected. Facebook identified the posts and demoted them in the newsfeed but refused to remove them, later telling a parliamentary inquiry into electoral matters it would not be “appropriate” to remove the false claims and it did not want to “referee political debates”.