Oct 28, 2019

Facebook employees dissent over policy on lying in political ads

Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

More than 250 Facebook employees have signed a letter protesting the company's policy allowing politicians to buy ads that make false statements, the New York Times' Mike Isaac reports.

Why it matters: As the 2020 election looms, critics fear the company's policies and security measures are insufficient to prevent a repeat of 2016 — when misinformation, some directed from overseas, ran rampant on the social network. Facebook's leadership has defended its policy as a protection of free speech in a democracy, even as politicians push the policy's boundaries to try to expose its flaws.

What they're saying:

"Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing. Misinformation affects us all. Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for. We strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn’t protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy."
— Facebook employees' letter
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.
— Facebook spokesperson Bertie Thomson

Read the letter.

Go deeper: Facebook gives politicians a free pass to lie

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from Facebook.

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Big Tech workers call out their companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech industry workers create powerful tools that amplify users' voices. Now they're getting vocal about how those tools are used — and employers are wondering whether there's such a thing as too much voice.

Why it matters: Tech workers are often echoing concerns that have already stirred in the rest of society — or are about to do so.

Go deeperArrowOct 29, 2019

Rivals distance themselves from Facebook on political ads

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Google, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat all made new announcements this week adjusting their political ad policies, placing themselves on a broad spectrum from anything goes to a near-total ban.

Why it matters: Many social media companies are using the ongoing political ad debate to distance themselves from Facebook, which has received the most criticism for its policies. Facebook's rules are the least restrictive amongst the group, because the tech giant believes that the government should regulate political ads, not private companies.

Go deeperArrowNov 21, 2019

Twitter casts itself as the anti-Facebook

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Twitter's move to ban political ads is just the latest of several moves by the platform to position itself as an antidote to what critics see as Facebook's missteps and ethical lapses.

Why it matters: The free speech banner Facebook is waving used to be shared by most of the big social media companies. A Twitter exec once called the company "the free speech wing of the free speech party."

  • But amid an extraordinary backlash toward Facebook from critics angered at its role in spreading misinformation, its rivals are distancing themselves — and are using the moment to frame their free speech principles as better suited to the era of social media.
Go deeperArrowOct 31, 2019