During a hearing on Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency project on Wednesday, the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over the social network’s new political ad policy.
In particular, Ocasio-Cortez wondered what types of political ads candidates could run without fearing that Facebook would take them down.
"No, you couldn't," Zuckerberg said when asked whether Ocasio-Cortez could pay to “target predominantly black zip codes and advertise them the incorrect election date”. In this vein, he specifically underscored Facebook’s policy of meddling in political ads when they are thought to instigate violence or could result in voter suppression.
Ocasio-Cortez then asked if she could run ads “targeting Republicans in primaries saying that they voted for the Green New Deal”.
“Congresswoman, I don't know the answer to that off the top of my head. I think probably”, Zuckerberg replied.
He stressed that “lying is bad” when answering Ocasio-Cortez’s question about a problem pertaining to a “complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements”.
When asked if he “will take down lies or won't take down lies”, Zuckerberg noted that “it depends on the context that it shows up”.
Facebook Refuses to Scrap Trump Campaign Ad About Biden
This came after Facebook declined to remove the Trump campaign’s ad, which accused former Vice President Joe Biden of offering Ukraine “$1 billion to fire the prosecutor investigating a company affiliated with his son”.
In a letter to Biden’s presidential campaign obtained by The New York Times, Facebook’s global elections policy chief Katie Harbath specifically emphasised the company’s policy to allow speech from politicians to run unchecked regardless of how truthful their claims are.
“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinised speech there is. Thus, when a politician speaks or makes an ad, we do not send it to third party fact checkers,” she pointed out.
Zuckerberg, for his part, also defended Facebook’s ad policy, noting that “I don’t think that we want private companies censoring politicians in the news.”
Earlier, ABC News reported that more than $1 million had already been spent by the Trump campaign on Facebook ads to increase messaging against the House’s efforts to impeach President Donald Trump.
Impeachment Probe Against Trump
On 24 September, US House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry against Trump over a whistleblower complaint claiming that the US President might have abused his power by allegedly pressuring Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky during a 25 July phone call into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden for corruption.
Trump denied the accusations, describing the impeachment probe as another political witch hunt aimed at reversing the results of the 2016 US presidential election.