This year’s US presidential elections are in jeopardy—in part because San Francisco Bay Area technology company Facebook refuses to take responsibility for the lies, hate, and disinformation that are being spread using its platform.
Facebook refuses to take down advertisements by US politicians that feature even the most blatant falsehoods. It freely allows microtargeting that directs disinformation at vulnerable communities that is hidden from everyone else. And its efforts to stop the spread of toxic lies and hate are too little, too late.
Please join us to say enough is enough! Facebook must immediately prevent its platform from being used to spread disinformation and divisiveness that could disrupt our elections. We’re urging Facebook to:
Facebook should fact check advertisements placed by politicians and political campaigns. In other words, it should hold these political ads to the same standards it applies to advertisements that are not placed by politicians. As Facebook employees said in an open letter to company leadership, “Misinformation shared by political advertisers has an outsized detrimental impact on our community.” If you or I lied in an advertisement on Facebook, it would immediately be taken down.
Right now political campaigns can target their ads so precisely that they can pinpoint them to reach specific voters. The problem with this, according to former Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub, is that “false and misleading messages may be disseminated in a way that does not allow people with conflicting information to counter those messages, because they won't see them.” Facebook already restricts targeting for industries with a history of discrimination, like housing. They should do the same with political ads.
All businesses can refuse service to a person who violates their policies. Restaurants usually require patrons wear shoes and shirts. Facebook should require that users refrain from using the platform to disrupt the 2020 election. They can do this by implementing terms of service or acceptable usage policies that require users to follow certain rules about how Facebook can be used.
There’s no dearth of ideas for how to reform Facebook to protect our democracy and our civil society. Facebook’s own employees have put forward an excellent set of recommendations that include spending caps for politicians and observing silence periods free from political advertisements before elections. Another strong set of recommendations was put forward by Change the Terms, which focuses on how the platform can enforce an acceptable use policy to prevent Facebook from being used to incite hate, fear and abusive behavior. Finally, a number of organizations make the case that the Federal Trade Commission should break up Facebook, which now has unprecedented power to decide what news and information billions of people around the world see every day.
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