Facebook News Boss ‘Astonished’ Journalists Want Political Ads Fact-Checked

“I strongly believe it should be the role of the press to dissect the truth or lies found in political ads – not engineers at a tech company,” Campbell Brown says

Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, said Wednesday she’s “astonished” many journalists have pushed back against the company’s decision to not fact-check its political ads.

“Having spent most of my pre-Facebook career as a journalist covering politics, I have been astonished at the reaction by other journalists to Facebook’s decision not to police speech from political candidates,” Brown said in a post on her Facebook page. “I strongly believe it should be the role of the press to dissect the truth or lies found in political ads – not engineers at a tech company.”

Before joining Facebook, Brown was a television reporter at NBC and CNN, where she hosted her own new program from 2008 to 2010.

Her comments come after the social network has been criticized in recent weeks for not removing political ads with misinformation in them. Facebook’s critics — including 2020 presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren — have called on the company to take a more proactive approach to policing their political ads; others have suggested the company abandon running political ads altogether.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg weighed in earlier this month, saying he’d rather let Facebook’s users determine what is and isn’t false in political ads, rather than the company itself.

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

He added: “I know many people disagree with us. But in general, I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy.”

Zuckerberg later told Fox News that political ads only drive a fraction of Facebook’s tens of billions in ad revenue each year, and that he’d considered dropping political ads altogether. But this would do more harm than good, he argued, because it would favor incumbent politicians and the candidates news organizations decide to cover.

On Wednesday, Brown also addressed the recent backlash to the publishers Facebook has included in its new News tab, most notably right-wing site Breitbart.

“I also believe that in building out a destination for news on Facebook, we should include content from ideological publishers on both the left and the right – as long as that content meets our integrity standards for misinformation,” Brown said.

“All the content on Facebook News today meets those standards. If a publisher violates our standards by posting misinformation or hate speech on our platform, they will be removed from Facebook News.”