Facebook Inc is not backing down on its policy to show political ads, even after competitors have made changes amid concerns that tech platforms allow politicians to amplify misleading messages.
In a briefing to reporters in Brussels, Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president for global affairs and communications, said Facebook wouldn’t follow its competitor Twitter Inc in shunning political advertisements from its platform.
Clegg said Facebook has proven to be an “extremely important instrument by which democratic debate is enriched” by lending a voice to politicians that challenge incumbents. The former U.K deputy prime minister added that there’s “a strongly-held view in the company that it’s a legitimate use of our platform.“
Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive officer, separately told CBS News in an interview to air December 3 that it’s important that people “can see for themselves what politicians are saying.”
Twitter in October said it would ban political ads, with the exception of some “cause-based” ads for certain issues, while Alphabet Inc.’s Google in November said it would severely limit how political advertisers can target people online. Some news outlets reported in November that Facebook was also mulling changes to its ads policy, including to limit the level of detail political campaigns or groups can use to target voters.
Responding to the reports, Clegg said Monday it had looked at both Twitter and Google’s changes to their ads policies and could consider enhancements and improvements in the future, but that the “fundamental architecture of our approach to allow political ads” won’t change.
The Facebook executive said the decision wasn’t commercial, adding that political ads would likely make up less than 0.5% of the company’s total revenues next year.
Zuckerberg has come under fire for his position because it means politicians can publish lies or misinformation on the social network and pay Facebook to spread those messages to voters. President Trump’s campaign has already taken advantage of the policy by running recent ads claiming Democratic front-runner Joe Biden bribed Ukrainian officials — claims that have been debunked.
Separately, Facebook on Monday also announced a limited trial of a new tool that will allow users to transfer their Facebook photos and videos to other services, starting with Google Photos. All data transferred will be encrypted and any initiation of transfers will require users to enter their password, Facebook said.
The announcement comes as the social media giant’s data practices are under heavy scrutiny in Europe, from both privacy and competition regulators.
“The pressure from regulators in the name of competition is to allow data to walk about a bit more,” Clegg said, adding that making data more portable also posed new privacy risks of their own. “The more you move stuff around the more of it can get lost and exposed.”
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