American politicians aren’t the only ones Facebook’s given free rein to lie in political ads on its platform. Per a CNN report, the company’s extending its widely panned policy across the pond as well, right in time for the UK’s general election. And here I thought I’d have to wait a whole year to see the fallout of massive false advertising campaigns.
In September, Facebook extended its moderation policies “to treat speech from politicians as newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard” regardless of any claims—defamatory or otherwise—therein.
So, just as in America, Facebook won’t be fact-checking ads run by British political parties and candidates ahead of a historic Parliamentary election next month. One that could determine how Brexit pans out or whether it happens at all.
However, ads from political groups will still face the usual scrutiny, Facebook told CNN Friday. That includes, among others, Leave.EU, a pro-Brexit group that worked with the disgraced political data firm Cambridge Analytica before 2016's public referendum on whether to leave the EU. So it seems Facebook has learned at least one thing from the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Facebook has been facing a lot of heat since doubling down on this policy, particularly as the 2020 presidential race ramps up and several demonstrably false political ads have begun appearing on the platform. Other social media bigwigs like TikTok and Twitter have banned political ads entirely, moves that, at least in part, also function as not-quite-so-subtle dunks on the unpopularity of Facebook’s decision. Even the company’s own employees have reportedly called it “a threat to what [Facebook] stands for” per a New York Times report. Despite this purportedly growing dissent, Facebook’s official stance remains that it’s not in the business of policing what political ads voters see. And it’s absolutely not because of those sweet ad dollars.