Facebook Refuses to Change Policy, Will Allow Misleading Political Ads

Attendees walk past a Facebook logo at the company’s developers conference in San Jose, Calif., April 30, 2019. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Facebook announced on Thursday that it would not change its ad policy ahead of the 2020 elections and will continue to allow political ads with false or misleading information.

“In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies,” wrote the company’s director of product management Rob Leathern in a blog post. “We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.”

The policy has come under fire from Democrats who accuse the company of allowing misleading campaign ads by President Trump. In October, the Trump campaign ran an ad alleging rival Joe Biden and his Hunter engaged in corrupt practices with regard to Ukraine, enraging Democratic candidates.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Katie Harbath, Facebook’s head of global communications, wrote in a letter to the Biden campaign explaining the decision to run the ad. Senator Elizabeth Warren subsequently ran her own Facebook ad accusing company CEO Mark Zuckerberg of backing President Trump for reelection.

Andrew Bosworth, head of Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality division, in a December 30 memo obtained by the New York Times dismissed widely repeated claims that Trump won election in 2016 due to Russian disinformation campaigns.

Trump “got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser,” Bosworth wrote. The campaign didn’t run “misinformation or hoaxes,” nor was it “microtargeting or saying different things to different people. [The campaign] just used the tools we had to show the right creative to each person.”

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