Jack Dorsey’s Shade May Be Getting to Facebook


Facebook has so far resisted calls to ban political ads from its platform, a step Twitter took last month to wide approval. But it now appears that Mark Zuckerberg could be wavering. According to CNN Business, which cited a source familiar with the social media behemoth’s thinking, Zuckerberg is weighing changes to its political advertising policies, encompassing the way the ads are targeted, labeled, and paid for. While the potential changes likely wouldn’t go far enough to assuage the company’s critics—per reports, the company’s fact-checking policy would remain the same—they suggest that Zuck and Co. may be bending under intense public pressure.

Some of that pressure has come from within the Valley itself. In October, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that political ads will not be welcome on the platform beginning November 22—a move meant to address the false and misleading ads that plague social platforms. “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Dorsey wrote in a tweet thread. “While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.”

It was a major step for Twitter, and intensified the already-heavy public scrutiny on Facebook. But Zuckerberg defended his company line.“Ads can be an important part of voice,” he reportedly said in an earnings call last in late October, “especially for candidates and advocacy groups that the media might not otherwise cover so they can get their message into debates.”

The controversy over Facebook’s handling of political ads came to a head late last month, when Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pressed Zuckerberg on the subject during a congressional hearing. “You announced recently that the official policy of Facebook now allows politicians to pay to spread disinformation in 2020 elections and in the future,” she said, pointedly. “So I just want to know how far I can push this in the next year.” She then asked Zuckerberg if she’d be able to run ads on Facebook falsely claiming that certain Republicans supported the Green New Deal. “I think probably,” Zuckerberg replied. “Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?” AOC responded.

Elizabeth Warren underscored the issue by running an intentionally false ad on Facebook claiming Zuckerberg himself is backing Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. But the social media company held firm in its position that it shouldn’t be acting as a fact checker, with a spokesperson telling the New York Times that “if Senator Warren wants to say things she knows to be untrue, we believe Facebook should not be in the position of censoring that speech.” Facebook still doesn’t seem to be willing to go as far as Twitter, but with other big names in tech—including, apparently, Google—re-evaluating their policies, Zuckerberg may find himself needing to at least do something as criticism continues to rain down.

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