Facebook Employees Tell Mark Zuckerberg: We ‘Strongly Object’ to Policy on Fact-Checking Political Ads

Allowing ads with misinformation to run increases “distrust” in Facebook, employees say in letter to chief executive

Last Updated: October 28, 2019 @ 11:59 AM

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s stance that political ads should be exempt from fact-checking isn’t sitting well with many of Facebook’s employees.

In a letter to Zuckerberg that was shared by The New York Times on Monday, several hundred Facebook employees said that allowing ads with lies to run would “increase distrust” in the platform.

“Misinformation affects us all,” the letter read. “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.”

The letter continued: “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.”

A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

The letter comes a week after Zuckerberg headed to Washington, D.C. and defended the company’s policy on political ads against several irate Democratic members of Congress. Zuckerberg reiterated a stance he made earlier this month, during a speech at Georgetown University, where he said Facebook was better off letting its users determine the credibility of its political ads, rather than the company itself.

“As a principle,” Zuckerberg said during his speech, “in a democracy, I believe people should decide what is credible, not tech companies.”

Zuckerberg added that his belief was based on the “American free speech tradition.”

The Facebook employees, in their letter, disagreed with his sentiment.

“Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing,” the letter read.

Allowing political ads with misinformation to run, the employees said, “communicates that we are OK profiting from deliberate misinformation campaigns by those in or seeking positions of power.”

The letter included several recommendations for political ads, including a spending cap on how much politicians can spend on Facebook ads.

The letter also comes after a myriad of pundits and politicians — most notably, 2020 presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren — have pushed the company to fact-check its political ads. Zuckerberg has argued the company doesn’t do it for business reasons, saying it only accounts for a small sliver of Facebook’s tens of billions in annual ad revenue. But banning political ads, he argued, would benefit incumbent politicians and the candidates the media decides to cover.

Earlier this month, Zuckerberg told Fox News that Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users from harm. During the same interview, Zuckerberg boasted the company’s security budget now exceeds the $5.1 billion Facebook made in 2012, its first year as a public company. Protecting users can still be accomplished, he said,  “in a way that still protects freedom of expression.”

“I think it’s our responsibility to address the issues, but also push back on broadening the definition of what people consider dangerous online, beyond what is absolutely necessary,” he added.

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