Nation & World

Pressure now on Facebook to ban political ads

Twitter's decision came Wednesday

“Anyone who says the answer is simple hasn’t thought about the nuances and downstream challenges,” says Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in regard to banning political ads. (Reuters)
“Anyone who says the answer is simple hasn’t thought about the nuances and downstream challenges,” says Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in regard to banning political ads. (Reuters)

SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter’s ban on political advertising is ratcheting up pressure on Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg to follow suit. But so far, that doesn’t appear likely to happen.

Facebook’s policy is to accept paid political ads without fact-checking them or censoring them, even if they contain lies.

And Zuckerberg doubled down on that stand Wednesday following Twitter’s announcement, reiterating that “political speech is important” and that Facebook is loath to interfere with it.

Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites have come under fire over Russia’s use of such platforms to spread misinformation and sow political division in the United States during the 2016 presidential campaign.

That debate has heated up again in recent weeks along with the 2020 race for the White house.

Twitter chose to respond with a ban on all political advertising, suggesting that social media is so powerful that false or misleading messages pose a risk to democracy.

The timing of the announcement, the same day as Facebook’s quarterly earnings report, seemed designed to goad Zuckerberg.

“The pressure is going to be extremely strong on Facebook to do something similar, and if they don’t, the criticism of Facebook will only increase,” said Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy Creative Strategies.

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In fact, some of the Democratic presidential candidates immediately suggested Facebook follow Twitter’s lead.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock tweeted, “Good. Your turn, Facebook.” And Pete Buttigieg said, “I think other online platforms would do well to either accept their responsibility for truth or question whether they should be in the business at all.”

“This is complex stuff,” Zuckerberg said. “Anyone who says the answer is simple hasn’t thought about the nuances and downstream challenges.

“I don’t think anyone can say that we are not doing what we believe or we haven’t thought hard about these issues.”

Facebook’s third-quarter earnings exceeded expectations, rising 29 percent from a year ago, to $17.65 billion, according to Investor’s Business Daily.

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