Facebook employees are urging Mark Zuckerberg to reconsider his position on allowing politicians into political advertisements. In a open letter to managers obtained by The New York Times, more than 250 people said the policy – which exempts such ads from Facebook standards for third-party fact-checking – poses a threat to the company:
Wrong information affects us all. Our current policy for actually monitoring people in political office or those who are officially employed is a threat to what FB stands for. We strongly object to this policy as it is now. It does not protect votes, but allows politicians to arm our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is reliable.
They added that it feeds the mistrust of the platform and "it communicates that we OK benefit from intentional misinformation campaigns by people in positions of power."
Employees urged executives to limit how politicians can reach potential voters. Nowadays, they can segment users based on how likely they are to vote or how susceptible they are to a potential message – tactics infamous by the political advisory Cambridge Analytica. "These ads are often so micro-focused that conversations on our platforms are much quieter than on other platforms," employees said. Facebook already applies such restrictions to advertisements related to housing, education or credit, to stop potential discrimination.
Facebook's advertising policy has been under attack since September, when vice-president Clegg tried to explain why the company would no longer "judge political debates" by checking political ads. Elizabeth Warren claimed that the move was a clear sign that they were taking "Intentional steps to help a candidate deliberately mislead the American people," then escalated the matter further by placing an ad claiming that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook had subscribed to Trump. "We intentionally created a Facebook ad with false claims and submitted it to the Facebook advertising platform to see if it would be approved. It was quickly approved and the ad is now showing," she tweeted.
Last week, the company deleted an ad who wrongly claimed that Lindsey Graham (R-SC) supported the Green New Deal. The Really Online Lefty League, a liberal PAC, conducted it to test whether Facebook's policy applied to political organizations. Because the advertisement was purchased by an external group, it was subject to a stricter policy for checking facts than messages from the candidates themselves.
Two weeks ago, Mark Zuckerberg gave a speech at Georgetown University, where he tried to crystallize his thoughts on free speech and the role of his company in moderating political talks. The speech was widely criticized by the left and right; both parties thought that Zuckerberg avoided his responsibility for helping to disseminate incorrect information. Now even his own employees seem to agree.