Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg in a Tight Spot on Political Ads

On Wednesday, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg appeared in a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee. The subject for discussion was supposed to be Facebook’s Libra crypto project.

However, it spiralled off into any Facebook-related issue being thrown at him. Members of Congress grilled the executive on a number of controversies that Facebook has been embroiled in.

These include, hate speech, lack of data privacy, diversity, content moderation, and more. What was first and foremost on the minds of the US National Congress was, Facebook’s policy.

This particular policy, allegedly allowed politicians to lie in their political ads. So, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, first-term Democrat from New York, drilled Zuckerberg on the matter.

“You announced recently that the official policy of Facebook now allows politicians to pay to spread disinformation in 2020 elections and in the future. So I just want to know how far I can push this in the next year,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

She asked whether she could pay to target predominantly black zip codes and advertise the wrong election date, to which Mark Zuckerberg replied that such an ad would be barred.

“If anyone, including a politician, is saying things that can cause … that is calling for violence, or could risk imminent physical harm, or voter or census suppression, when we roll out the census suppression policy, we will take that content down,” he said.

“So there is some threshold where you will fact-check political advertisements. Is that what you’re telling me?” Ocasio-Cortez said.

According to internal Facebook correspondence in 2019 there was a lawsuit. It revealed that executives knew of potentially improper data collection by Cambridge Analytica as early as September 2015.


Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

Zuckerberg claimed on Wednesday that he learned of Cambridge Analytica around the time the news became public. However, an unconvinced Ocasio-Cortez asked if anybody on Zuckerberg’s leadership team knew about the firm before the report published by the Guardian on 11 December 2015.

Ocasio-Cortez asked about Facebook’s policy on exempting political advertising from factchecking. The 30-year old asked if she could pay to advertise an incorrect election date to people in a primarily black zip code, for example.

Zuckerberg said Facebook does support removing content in cases of violence or of census or voter suppression. He did not answer whether the company would take down outright lies if they were in political advertisements.

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