Defiant Mark Zuckerberg defends Facebook policy to allow false ads

Zuckerberg says ‘people should be able to judge for themselves the character of politicians’ and compares alternative to censorship

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has defended the company’s decision to not take down political advertising that contains false information – and compared the alternative to censorship.

Challenged on CBS over the policy, which has raised concerns over misinformation campaigns that could distort elections, Zuckerberg refused to commit to any changes.

“What I believe is that in a democracy, it’s really important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying, so they can make their own judgments,” he said.

“And, you know, I don’t think that a private company should be censoring politicians or news.”

Gayle King, co-host of CBS This Morning, pointed out that 200 Facebook employees wrote a letter asking Zuckerberg to reconsider as “free speech and paid speech are not the same”.

The Facebook co-founder was unmoved.

“Well, this is a clearly a very complex issue, and a lot of people have a lot of different opinions,” he said. “At the end of the day, I just think that in a democracy, people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.”

He added: “I think that people should be able to judge for themselves the character of politicians.”

Zuckerberg has come under criticism from lawmakers including New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who have warned that the 2020 presidential election will be influenced by paid-for false claims spread by the social media platform.

Similar fears have played out in the UK ahead of its general election this month. Facebook removed an ad by the Conservatives that showed BBC reporters seemingly decrying a “pointless delay to Brexit” – in fact the reporters were quoting politicians including prime minister Boris Johnson.

The BBC asked the Tories to take the ad down, only to be rebuffed. Facebook acquiesced, however, due to “intellectual property” concerns.

Facebook’s outsized role in funnelling false claims and fake news stories to voters has been highlighted since the election of Donald Trump as US president.

The company has been accused of giving a mainstream platform to extremist groups, with Guardian US recently reporting how two white nationalist organizations continued to operate Facebook pages months after a promised ban.

On CBS, King asked Zuckerberg about a meeting with Trump at the White House in October. Trump has previously said Facebook shouldn’t ban political ads.

Zuckerberg said: “We talked about a number of things that were on his mind. And some of the topics that you’d read about in the news around our work.”

Asked if Trump lobbied him, Zuckerberg said: “No. I mean, I don’t think that that’s … I think some of the stuff that people talk about or think gets discussed [in] these discussions are not really how that works.

“I also want to respect that it was a private dinner and … private discussion.”


Oliver Milman in New York

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook won't remove anti-vaccine posts despite Covid concerns
Social media chief denies Facebook’s algorithms are designed to push viewpoints ‘that are going to kind of enrage people’

Edward Helmore

09, Sep, 2020 @11:27 PM

Article image
Mark Zuckerberg defends decision to allow Trump to threaten violence on Facebook
CEO says decision was ‘tough’ but ‘thorough’ as company faces harsh criticism and public dissent from employees

Julia Carrie Wong

02, Jun, 2020 @11:28 PM

Article image
Facebook investors may want to quiz Mark Zuckerberg | Nils Pratley
Cambridge Analytica data scandal has hit share price, so it is right to ask how the boss is running the firm

Nils Pratley

21, Mar, 2018 @7:44 AM

Article image
Mark Zuckerberg hits back at Facebook whistleblower claims
Frances Haugen’s testimony that social networking company puts profit before people ‘just not true’

Dan Milmo Global technology editor

06, Oct, 2021 @9:19 AM

Article image
Facebook charging $100 to send message to Mark Zuckerberg

Company says it is testing 'extreme price points' for scheme allowing users to contact high-profile figures for a fee. By Jemima Kiss

Jemima Kiss

11, Jan, 2013 @5:52 PM

Article image
MPs threaten Mark Zuckerberg with summons over Facebook data
Parliament may formally call CEO to face Cambridge Analytica questions next time he is in UK

Jim Waterson Media editor

01, May, 2018 @6:42 PM

Article image
Donald Trump suspended from Facebook indefinitely, says Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO accuses president of intending to undermine peaceful transition of power

Alex Hern and Kari Paul

07, Jan, 2021 @6:59 PM

Article image
Facebook news feed revamp: Mark Zuckerberg attended weekly briefings
Design director Julie Zhou said founder was 'very involved' with makeover process, which began more than a year ago. By Josh Halliday

Josh Halliday

08, Mar, 2013 @11:43 AM

Article image
Zuckerberg deflects questions about vaccine disinformation on Facebook
CEO says problem is primarily one of ‘vaccine hesitancy’ among the US public, touting platform’s vaccine literacy tool

Samira Sadeque in New York

19, Aug, 2021 @4:44 PM

Article image
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sees stock tumble amid IPO lawsuits

Now they call it Fadebook – shareholders call in lawyers as stock price tumbles and regulators are not far behind

Juliette Garside

23, May, 2012 @7:36 PM