Facebook has found itself in the spotlight once again as founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has stated he does not believe it to be right for his platforms to ban political adverts.
During a speech in Washington DC, Zuckerberg spoke up against the weeks of criticism his company has faced over its decision not to ban political ads ‘that contain falsehoods.’ Though he admitted he had considered the idea, Zuckerberg confirmed that his company would continue to stand for free expression at what he believes to be a ‘critical moment’ in time.
Zuckerberg’s decision has not been met lightly however, with numerous individuals disagreeing that he should not continue to allow his platforms to run ads which contain ‘knowingly incorrect’ information and which hold the potential to mislead the public.
Defending the company’s decision, he said “We’re at another crossroads […] We can either continue to stand for free expression, understanding its messiness but believing that the long journey towards great progress requires confronting ideas that challenge us. Or we can decide that the cost is simply temporary. […] The future depends on all of us, and whether you like it or not, I think we need to recognise what is at stake and come together to stand for voice and free expression at this critical moment.”
There has been a lot of media attention surrounding fake news stories and information on social media platforms recently, with the political dangers of this being highlighted. Though work is being undertaken to prevent the spreading of fake news stories on social platforms, it looks as though one of the world’s largest, Facebook, will not be placing a ban on misleading political adverts.
Drawing on historical events to strengthen his argument, Zuckerberg, during his speech, mentioned the imprisonment of late civil rights campaigner, Martin Luther King as an example of the consequences of going against free expression. However, the daughter of the late campaigner, was quick to point out that ‘disinformation spread by politicians’ had actually contributed to her father’s eventual murder.
Marc Benioff, Salesforce’s Chief Executive said “[Facebook is] the new cigarettes – it’s addictive, bad for us, and our kids are being drawn in.” This statement seems to be a good way for describing the platform, but it also highlights the further work Facebook needs to carry out to ensure the safety of both its users and the wider communities as a whole. Fake political news and adverts can have dire consequences, and though Zuckerberg is adamant on protecting free expression at the moment, his decision could of course cause future problems.