Facebook is pushing a re-brand around transparency after a few difficult years marked by privacy issues and its role in spreading verifiably false information, but consumers and media professionals aren’t ready to move on.
On the first day of Vox’s Code Media Conference, Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, got question after question regarding the massive platform’s continued role in the spread of false information, be it political ads or daily content from admittedly biased web sites.
Recode’s senior media correspondent Peter Kafka began by asking about Facebook’s policy around political ads, as the platform has been under renewed scrutiny since a pro-Trump ad ran falsely accusing 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden of blackmailing officials in the Ukraine. Despite it being verifiably false, Everson said there are no conversations even happening within Facebook right now regarding altering its policy on political advertising, which does not allow pulling or editing.
“We have no plans to change the policy,” Everson said. “This is a really difficult thing to think about, but we strongly believe we should not be the arbiter of truth.”
Instead, Everson said Facebook wants lawmakers and government regulators to step in and create guidelines for false political speech. She also veered toward arguing that Facebook is simply too big, too important to smaller countries and smaller political players, to figure out how to effectively fact check political ads in a way that would do more good than harm. That didn’t seem to sit well.
Kafka noted the absurdity of Facebook creating something so big that it now doesn’t “feel comfortable running parts of it.” A woman who identified herself as a chief executive with Hewlett Packard, a big advertiser on Facebook, asked during a brief question-and-answer session: “Are you saying that you [can’t solve this problem] at scale, because you’re so big?” The answer was essentially Facebook wants outside regulation.
Another audience question was about what Facebook considers news. A man pointed out that Steve Bannon, the former White House adviser and founder of web site Breitbart, has defined the site as “a platform for the alt-right,” or those who are on the fringes of conservative politics, yet the site is still housed under Facebooks’s news tab and in its news feed.
“We don’t pay for Breitbart and we pay for other news content and we also have content from the left to balance it, but we didn’t feel right making a judgment call to take the far right and leave the far left.
“We are treating it as a news source, but I wouldn’t say it’s considered ‘trusted news,’” Everson added when pushed.
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