Why Facebook Won't Fact-Check Political Ads, and what to do about it

 

It’s complicated. No, it’s not.

Why Facebook Won't Fact-Check Political Ads, and what to do about it /img/political-ads-in-facebook.jpg

Professor S. Vaidhyanathan recently argued that the Real Reason Facebook Won’t Fact-Check Political Ads is not free speech.

When Twitter said that they would stop hosting political ads, Facebook confirmed that they would continue to distribute them, and without fact-checking first: “In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians, or the news,” said Mark Zuckerberg.

Sometimes, the truth IS simple. But it’s just too big

Prof. Vaidhyanathan convincingly argues that Zuckerberg did not say so to defend free speech from censorship. He says that political ads are essential to maintaining the company’s presence in countries around the world, but Facebook is simply incapable of vetting them effectively and consistently at the global scale.

Such a task would just require too much time and effort to work, even in theory. And it may not be possible at all. What’s not political? If an ad calling for a carbon tax is political, is an ad promoting the reputation of an oil company political? This is the fact-checking that Facebook should commit to. Globally, in more than 100 languages.

It’s unrealistic and simplistic to demand veracity from a system that is too big to govern, concludes professor Vaidhyanathan. I agree. The only right way, and the only possible way to fight something like Facebook is to make it obsolete:

Why Facebook Won't Fact-Check Political Ads, and what to do about it /img/facebook-is-a-mimeograph.jpg
It's never too late to turn Facebook into a mimeograph!

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