The Facebook effect

Ryland Staples | Staff Writer

tim-bennett-OwvRB-M3GwE-unsplashPhoto Credit: Unsplash User Tim Bennett

Facebook has been a social media giant for over a decade. It’s the online forum where people go to share pictures of their family vacations with their friends, talk about that crazy game from last night and share ideas.

However, Facebook has been in the hot seat since co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s interrogation on Capitol Hill. He is defending Facebook’s choice to not fact check the political advertisements it has on its platform.

According to the New York Times, “the social network rejected a request from Mr. [Joe] Biden’s presidential campaign to take [the ad] down, foreshadowing a continuing fight over misinformation on the service during the 2020 election as well as the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.”

The publication continued, explaining that Facebook explained “in a letter to the Biden campaign, that the ad did not violate the company’s policies.” Facebook stated that false statements and misleading content in these advertisements also were an integral part to the political conversation.

Knowing that misleading and even flat-out wrong information is on your platform and letting it circulate through users’ timelines is adding to the spread of disinformation. With the 2016 election not that far behind us, one would think Facebook would try to make sure that only facts are shared and not “fake news,” but that’s not how it is.

Facebook has made it a point to not seem partisan. Enforcing fact-checks on political advertisements would go against “freedom of speech.”

Even some Facebook employees don’t agree with company policies. Employees released a letter addressed to Zuckerberg, saying: “We’re reaching out to you, the leaders of this company, because we’re worried, we’re on track to undo the great strides our product teams have made in integrity over the last two years. We work here because we care, because we know that even our smallest choices impact communities at an astounding scale. We want to raise our concerns before it’s too late.”

Even after an outcry from their own employees, Facebook still seems to be standing firm on its decision not to fact-check political advertisements.

Facebook spokesperson Bertie Thompson said, “Facebook’s culture is built on openness, so we appreciate our employees voicing their thoughts on this important topic, we remain committed to not censoring political speech, and will continue exploring additional steps we can take to bring increased transparency to political ads.”

With Facebook facing flak from seemingly all sides, Twitter officials have made it a point not to follow Facebook’s actions. Twitter banned all political advertisements on its website. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made his intentions clear in a series of tweets, tweeting, “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.”

I understand that being able to let people know what your campaign stands for is an important part of running for office of any kind.

However, it is also important to speak factually. The spread of disinformation is one reason why we’re where we are now.

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