Facebook said Tuesday that it would not apply its normal posting guidelines to politicians unless they are running an ad, The Verge reports.
Facebook communications chief Nick Clegg, a former Conservative Party leader and British deputy prime minister, said in a blog post that the network will not police false claims made by politicians.
“We rely on third-party fact-checkers to help reduce the spread of false news and other types of viral misinformation, like memes or manipulated photos and videos,” Clegg said. “We don’t believe, however, that it’s an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny. That’s why Facebook exempts politicians from our third-party fact-checking program.”
“If someone makes a statement or shares a post which breaks our community standards, we will still allow it on our platform if we believe the public interest in seeing it outweighs the risk of harm,” he wrote. “From now on we will treat speech from politicians as newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard.”
The only two exceptions are paid advertisements and speech that incites violence.
“I know some people will say we should go further. That we are wrong to allow politicians to use our platform to say nasty things or make false claims. But imagine the reverse,” Clegg said. “Would it be acceptable to society at large to have a private company in effect become a self-appointed referee for everything that politicians say? I don’t believe it would be. In open democracies, voters rightly believe that, as a general rule, they should be able to judge what politicians say themselves.”
Facebook under fire over Trump lies:
“The Trump factor is undeniable: Ahead of the 2016 election, Deepa Seetharaman at the Wall Street Journal reported that some of Trump's posts on Facebook sparked debates within the company about how the company should treat posts from politicians,” The Washington Post reported. “Employees argued some of Trump's posts about the Muslim ban should be removed for violating the company's hate speech policies, but Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg decided not to remove the posts.”
The New York Times’ Kevin Roose sarcastically mocked Clegg’s statement.
“It’s a good thing no politicians have ever run Facebook disinformation campaigns in order to tip elections or sow division, that’d be bad,” he wrote.
Fabio Chiusi, a project manager at Algorithm Watch, a non-profit research and advocacy organization, wrote that this was “possibly the worst of all policy decisions on Facebook’s part.”
Politicians, he said, “should be subject to special, more (not less) stringent policy enforcement criteria -- as they have a bigger responsibility to the public in terms of truth, dignity, and trust.”