Facebook does not fact-check politicians that use their sites … What is their reasoning for this? And is it right?
Facebook recently announced that it does not fact-check politicians on its website. This has been their policy for over a year, and they seem to have no intention of changing it. It even applies to posts that would be taken down if they were made by non-politicians for violating community guidelines. So, the real question is, why are these posts not being intervened on by Facebook, and what really defines a politician?
To test the boundaries of this policy, Elizabeth Warren created a fake ad that stated:
“Breaking news: Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook just endorsed Donald Trump for re-election. You’re probably shocked, and you might be thinking, ‘how could this possibly be true?’, Well, it’s not. (Sorry). But what Zuckerberg *has* done is given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform — and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters.”
While some thought this was a clever way to expose Facebook and its perhaps dirty practices, others just felt that it added to the already abundant “trolling” going on on the internet and was an ultimately unhelpful action.
If Warren can put out an ad like this and admit that it’s not true in the ad itself, other political figures can easily put out misleading ads and not admit to the dishonesty. This policy is particularly damaging when you consider the fact that people often just read headlines and then assume that what they have read is true, without bothering to read ahead any more.
Facebook’s stance on their own policy is that they can’t censor these statements made by politicians because it is important for the public to see and judge for themselves what they are reading. However, how can the public judge what they’re reading if it’s blatantly untrue and there is no indication of that on the site? Facebook believes that to intervene in political figure’s accounts would be to potentially face backlash over censorship.
Also, it is unclear where the line would be drawn in the definition of “political statement.” It obviously applies to political figures, but what about political organizations and so on? Would they be fact-checked and limited too? The whole policy becomes very blurry once they start intervening.
Overall, this is a tricky issue and one that, for right now, seems to not be set to change. At the very least, this is a testimony to the fact that you should always do your own research when reading political discourse.