Facebook exempts politicians from third-party fact-checking

San Francisco: Facebook has exempted politicians from its third-party fact-checking program, saying its efforts to curb fake news and misinformation don’t apply to politicians globally.

Speaking at the Atlantic Festival in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Nick Clegg who is vice president of Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook said the company does not believe it’s appropriate to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny.

“We have had this policy on the books for over a year now, posted publicly on our site under our eligibility guidelines. This means that we will not send organic content or ads from politicians to our third-party fact-checking partners for review,” Clegg said in a statement.

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However, when a politician shares previously debunked content including links, videos, and photos, Facebook plans to demote that content, display related information from fact-checkers, and reject its inclusion in advertisements.

“From now on, we will treat speech from politicians as newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard.”

“However, in keeping with the principle that we apply different standards to content for which we receive payment, this will not apply to ads — if someone chooses to post an ad on Facebook, they must still fall within our Community Standards and our advertising policies,” Clegg elaborated.

Since the 2016 US presidential election, Facebook has been trying to tackle the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Clegg spent two decades in European politics, including as Deputy Prime Minister in the UK for five years.

“A company that has created 40,000 US jobs in the last two years, is set to create 40,000 more in the coming years, and contribute tens of billions of dollars to the economy. And with plans to spend more than $250 billion in the US in the next four years,” he informed.

“And while Facebook is subject to a lot of criticism in Europe, in India where I was earlier this month, and in many other places, the only place where it is being proposed that Facebook and other big Silicon Valley companies should be dismembered is here,” Clegg added.

Facebook and other US tech companies not only face fierce competition from each other for every service they provide — for photo and video sharing and messaging there are rival apps with millions or billions of users — but they also face increasingly fierce competition from their Chinese rivals — Giants like Alibaba, TikTok, and WeChat.

“More importantly, pulling apart globally successful American businesses won’t actually do anything to solve the big issues we are all grappling with — privacy, the use of data, harmful content and the integrity of our elections,” Clegg emphasized, amid global calls to break up Facebook.

It is no secret that Facebook made mistakes in 2016 and that Russia tried to use Facebook to interfere with the election by spreading division and misinformation.

Clegg said the company will recruit 30,000 people and invest hugely in artificial intelligence systems to take down harmful content.

Last year, a Stanford report found that interactions with fake news on Facebook were down by two-thirds since 2016.

“Crucially, we have also tightened our rules on political ads. Political advertising on Facebook is now far more transparent than anywhere else — including TV, radio and print advertising,” said Clegg.

“I understand the debate about big tech companies and how to tackle the real concerns that exist about data, privacy, content and election integrity.”

“But I firmly believe that simply breaking them up will not make the problems go away. The real solutions will only come through new, smart regulation instead,” he said.

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