Facebook exempts political speech from fact-checking

The social network has come under fire from critics, particularly Democrats, who believe that tech giants have become too powerful. (FIle/AFP)
Updated 25 September 2019

Facebook exempts political speech from fact-checking

  • Worries have run high ahead of the November 2020 polls following revelations of a wide-ranging misinformation campaign on Facebook
  • Facebook has set up partnerships with media outlets to verify articles and posts found to be of a dubious nature

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook will not fact-check the statements politicians post to the site, the social network announced Tuesday ahead of the US 2020 elections, even as it works to discredit false information meant to manipulate public opinion.
While the social network relies on third-party fact-checkers, including news organizations such as AFP, to help it discredit viral misinformation, it will stop short of wading into the veracity of political claims.
“We don’t believe... that it’s an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny,” said Nick Clegg, Facebook vice president of global affairs and communications.
“This means that we will not send organic content or ads from politicians to our third-party fact-checking partners for review,” he said.
Worries have run high ahead of the November 2020 polls following revelations of a wide-ranging misinformation campaign on Facebook and other social platforms, largely directed by Russian operatives, in the 2016 elections.
Overwhelmed by such disinformation, Facebook has set up partnerships with media outlets to verify articles and posts found to be of a dubious nature, with journalists’ contributions appearing below problematic content, which is labeled as doubtful.
Exclusion of politicians’ discourse has been part of Facebook’s policy for over a year, Clegg said.
“However, when a politician shares previously debunked content including links, videos and photos, we plan to demote that content, display related information from fact-checkers, and reject its inclusion in advertisements,” he said.
Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister, joined Facebook less than a year ago to help fix its scandal-plagued image following Russian social media campaigns during elections.
Facebook meanwhile walks a fine line in its attempts to balance freedom of expression with regulation of inappropriate content.
Its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has taken steps to increase transparency, especially when it comes to political advertising.
The social network has come under fire from critics, particularly Democrats, who believe that tech giants have become too powerful. Meanwhile Republicans, including US President Donald Trump, regularly accuse the social network of censoring conservative voices.


EU countries fail to agree on privacy rules governing WhatsApp, Skype

Updated 2 min 20 sec ago

EU countries fail to agree on privacy rules governing WhatsApp, Skype

  • EU countries need to come up with a stance before they start talks to thrash out a common position with the Commission and European Parliament
  • Tech companies and some EU countries have criticized the ePrivacy proposal for being too restrictive

BRUSSELS: EU efforts to create a level playing field between telecoms operators and Facebook’s WhatsApp and Microsoft unit Skype stalled on Friday after member countries failed to agree on the scope of proposed rules.
The European Commission kicked off the process two years ago with its proposal for an ePrivacy regulation which would ensure that tech companies offering online messaging and email services would be subjected to the same tough rules as telecoms providers.
Disagreements between EU countries on complex issues such as rules for cookies tracking users’ online activities, provisions on detecting and deleting child pornography and consent requirements however have stymied the process.
EU countries need to come up with a stance before they start talks to thrash out a common position with the Commission and European Parliament.
EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels on Friday again reached an impasse, EU officials said.
Tech companies and some EU countries have criticized the ePrivacy proposal for being too restrictive, putting them at loggerheads with privacy activists who back the plan.
“By first watering down the text and now halting the ePrivacy Regulation, the (European) Council takes a stance to protect the interests of online tracking advertisers and to ensure the dominance of big tech,” said Diego Naranjo at digital civil rights group European Digital Rights (EDRi).
It is not clear what the next step will be. Croatia, which takes over the EU presidency Jan. 1, may seek to resume the negotiations.