- Hundreds of Facebook employees are asking the company to change its policies on political ads, according to an internal letter obtained by The New York Times.
- The social network currently refuses to fact-check ads from politicians, allowing them to lie with impunity.
- 250 employees signed on to an internal open letter calling for this to end and for Facebook to make a series of other changes.
- Facebook’s polices on political ads are proving intensely controversial, in particular with Democrats.
Hundreds of Facebook employees are petitioning CEO Mark Zuckerberg to change the company’s divisive rules on political advertising that allow politicians to lie with impunity.
On Monday, The New York Times’ Mike Isaac reported that more than 250 workers at the Silicon Valley social networking giant have signed an internal letter calling on the company’s leadership to change course on its stance on political ads, which has become the latest political firestorm to engulf the company.
“Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing,” the letter reads, according to a copy of it published by the NYT. “Misinformation affects us all. Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for. We strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn’t protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.”
In October, Facebook decided to exempt politicians’ advertisements from its broader rules that ban falsehoods in ads – effectively giving the all-clear to politicians to spread deliberate falsehoods on Facebook’s advertising platform without repercussions. The decision has proved intensely controversial, with Democrats warning that it could impact the 2020 election, even as Zuckerberg defends the position on free speech grounds.
But not all of the 34-year-old billionaire chief executive’s employees agree with him.
In the open letter, which was published on Facebook’s internal forum Workplace, the Facebook employees made six key requests. These are:
- Facebook should ban false political ads, like it does with other, non-political ads.
- Political ads should be more clearly distinguished in Facebook’s newsfeed from normal (non-paid) content.
- The targeting tools for political ads on Facebook should be restricted.
- Facebook should observe “election silence periods.”
- Politicians should have spending caps on the amount of political ads they can run.
- Policies on political ads should be clarified (regardless of any changes) to make them easier for users to understand.
In an emailed statement, Facebook spokesperson Bertie Thomson told Business Insider that the company welcomed the employee input.
“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 will continue exploring additional steps we can take to bring increased transparency to political ads,” she wrote.
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