Facebook won’t remove a politician’s content if it violates its rules

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With the US elections just around the corner, folks are once again questioning how social media, in particular Facebook, will influence the elections.

One might expect Facebook to be on high alert especially as relates to the often outlandish claims made by politicians. However, it appears as if it is taking a hands-off approach when it comes to policing politicians.

Speaking at Atlantic Festival in Washington DC on Tuesday, vice president of global affairs and communication at Facebook, Nick Clegg, explained why politicians are exempt from having their content removed.

“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. 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,” said Clegg.

This policy, Clegg says, builds off Facebook’s existing newsworthiness policy which has been around since 2016. This policy allows content that would ordinarily break Facebook’s rules to remain on the site so long as the public interest outweighs the risk of harm.

Content from politicians will henceforth be treated as newsworthy content. That does come with a few caveats though.

For one this newsworthiness protection does not apply to adverts and any adverts from politicians will still need to adhere to Facebook’s Community Standards and its advertising policy.

In addition, politicians that share previously debunked content will have related information from independent fact checkers placed alongside the post.

Of course, Clegg understands that many people believe Facebook should be far stricter when it comes to politicians.

“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,” said the VP.

“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.”

This line that Facebook is treading is very fine indeed. Just this week Facebook uncovered a trove of pro-Trump pages being run from the Ukraine. These pages have since been shut down but it highlights a bigger problem – Facebook only discovers bad actors when its too late.

Relaxing its policies for politicians is all good and well but can Facebook guarantee that every person who hears Mike Pence (for example) spout misinformation will see the correction at a later stage? We’re not so sure but let’s see if Facebook can get it right this time.

Second time lucky right?

[Source – Facebook]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.