Hundreds of Facebook employees sent its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg a letter blasting his position of not cracking down on “false” political ads placed on the social media platform.
In a lengthy letter obtained by The New York Times, the employees expressed that they were “worried” Facebook would “undo great strides” that have been made in the past two years as the company has been under intense scrutiny following the 2016 election and Russia’s efforts to spread misinformation.
“Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing,” the letter read. “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.”
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The employees listed the potential consequences of the policy remaining as is, including increased “distrust in our platform” threatening to “undo integrity product work.”
They then proposed holding political ads to the same standards as other ads, restricting their abilities to target certain users and implementing a spending cap for politicians.
“We want to have this conversation in an open dialog because we want to see actual change,” the letter continued. “We are proud of the work that the integrity teams have done, and we don’t want to see that undermined by policy. Over the coming months, we’ll continue this conversation, and we look forward to working towards solutions together.”
“This is still our company.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., recently grilled Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill. She started her fact-checking questions by asking whether she could target predominantly black ZIP codes with misinformation about an election. When Zuckerberg said no, she pressed him on whether she could lie about Republicans voting for her “Green New Deal.”
“I mean, if you’re not fact-checking political advertisements, I’m trying to understand the bounds here — what’s fair game,” she said.
Zuckerberg said he didn’t know the answer at that moment, prompting her to ask him if he understood why his approach was problematic.
“Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?” she asked. Zuckerberg replied that he thought lying was wrong.
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“I think if you were to run an ad that had a lie, that would be bad. That’s different from it being, in our position, the right thing to do to prevent your constituents or people in an election from seeing that you had lied,” he said.
Ocasio-Cortez, apparently not satisfied, suggested he was equivocating: “So you won’t take down lies or you will take down lies?” she asked. “It’s a pretty simple yes or no.”
Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.