Facebook sinks deep into the political controversy as they lose their only dutch fact-checking partners. It’s not the first time that Facebook’s guidelines are being questioned. According to the terms, Facebook’s advertisement does not allow any misinformation on the platform, but at the same time back in September, Facebook formally exempted politicians from this guideline of theirs, giving netizens a perfect example to define hypocrisy.
The decision for exempting politicians from this rule is certainly not supported by many, and the Netherlands made it very clear that they won’t be participating in spreading false information that could drastically affect the course of democracy. An online newspaper Nu.nl, fact-checking partner of Facebook, has officially parted ways with the social media giant following some dispute.
The leader of Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), Esther de Lange, recently claimed that “10 per cent of farmland in Romania is in non-Europian hand.” While the online Dutch newspaper claimed the fact to be not verified, Facebook told the paper that a politician’s speech doesn’t need to be verified. The dispute between the two lead Nu.nl to bit farewell to Facebook.
Gert Jaap Hoekman, the editor in chief of Nu.nl asked: ” what is the point of fighting fake news if you are not allowed to tackle politicians?” He further added by saying, “let one thing be clear: we remain behind the content of our fact checks. Facts are not a form of activism.”Source
The policy exempting politicians received numerous lash backs after many controversial advertisements appeared on Facebook about President Trump’s 2020 ad campaign. The advertisement apparently talked about debunked conspiracy theories about Ukrain which didn’t sit well with many netizens. Surrounded by controversy, Twitter banned the ads from its platform and banned future political ads, but Facebook refused to do the same.
“It is not an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny,” said Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg when asked why Facebook refuse to fact-check political adverts.
Last month, on Capitol Hill, when asked about Facebook’s decision not to fact-check political adverts and whether voters can be targeted based on demographic data, Mark Zuckerberg said that it was possible. Zuckerberg added, “In most cases, in a democracy, I believe that people should be able to see for themselves what politicians that they may or may not vote for are saying and judge their character for themselves.”
Nu.nl is not the only dutch fact-checker that didn’t agree with Facebook’s policies. Another fact-checker organization, Nieuwscheckers, run by Leiden University parted way with Facebook in 2018 over the same dispute. Facebook commented on Nu.nl’s departure by saying, “We value the work that Nu.nl has done and regret to see them go, but respect their decision as an independent business. Fighting misinformation takes a multi-pronged approach from across the industry. We are committed to fighting this through many tactics, and the work that third-party fact-checkers do is a valued and important piece of this effort.”
Facebook is currently working with 55 fact-checking partners around the world. These partners fact-check content in over 45 languages and Facebook hopes to continue the program in Europe soon.
The dispute with Nu.nl over the statement made by the CDA leader took place just two weeks before the Europen election. Now with Uk elections approaching fast, many campaigners and activists are urging Facebook and Google to ban political adverts. Facebook has again made it clear that they will not be banning any political ads on its platform.
While Facebook is being inexorable, Twitter is banning all political adverts from its platform. “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money,” tweeted Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey.
With so much misinformation going around, social media need to deliver what is verified to the public as to not conform the democracy into an idea that stands on lies and distrust. With social media giants such as Facebook refusing to include politicians into their guidelines, it becomes difficult for a democracy to stay true to its basis.