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Facebook’s fact-checkers think the platform’s political ads should be vetted

One of Facebook’s outsourced content moderators plans to ask the social network to change its policies regarding political ads to allow them to be fact-checked. 

The fact-checking organization Lead Stories will propose the policy change during a meeting with the tech giant next week, CNN reports. Lead Stories will urge Facebook to start fact-checking political ads by a nonpartisan panel. 

“There is an urgent need for a fair method to identify egregiously false political ads in 2020,” Lead Stories co-founder and editor-in-chief Alan Duke told CNN. “Our experience as fact-checkers shows me that too many people are too fast to fall for disinformation.”

Lead Stories is one of six fact-checking organizations that Facebook hired after the 2016 elections when the platform was accused of spreading misinformation through false news articles and sources that were not credible. 

“The goal of the meeting is to get constructive feedback and address questions from our partners. We welcome their input and look forward to the discussion next week,” a Facebook spokesperson told Digital Trends.

According to Facebook’s fact-checking policies, political speech is a part of free expression. 

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, especially in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is the most scrutinized speech there is,” the policy states. “Just as critically, by limiting political speech we would leave people less informed about what their elected officials are saying and leave politicians less accountable for their words.”

Facebook has been criticized in recent weeks for its refusal to fact-check political ads. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a speech at Georgetown University earlier this month that he believes political ads are an essential form of free speech. 

“I believe that people should decide for themselves what is credible, not tech companies,” Zuckerberg said during that speech. 

During a six-hour hearing with Congress last week, Zuckerberg was grilled on his decision for not fact-checking political ads, and many members of Congress pointed out the flaws that the ad policy has. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) gave Zuckerberg a hypothetical scenario, asking if she could theoretically run an ad on Facebook targeted at registered Republicans saying that they voted for the Green New Deal since there is no fact-checking for politicians’ ads, to which Zuckerberg replied that he didn’t know off the top of his head. 

“Do you see a problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?” Ocasio-Cortez asked during the hearing. 

In contrast, Twitter banned political ads from its site entirely, CEO Jack Dorsey announced on Wednesday.

“This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address,” Dorsey tweeted. 

Digital Trends reached out to Lead Stories to comment, but we haven’t yet received a response. 

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