Facebook's News boss blasted journalists calling for the company to 'police' speech in political ads
Campbell Brown, Facebook's Head of News Partnership, said she was "astonished" by the media's response to Facebook's decision to run paid political ads with misinformation and lies.
Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been criticized by lawmakers, the press, and members of the public for choosing not to fact-check paid political ads, though other types of ads are subject to third-party fact checking.
Brown and other Facebook employees claim the company should not be responsible for deciding which politically ads are factually correct, comparing the stance to the broadcast standards used by TV and radio stations.
A top Facebook executive overseeing the company's news publishing efforts fired back at critics of its controversial policy to allow political ads containing lies to run on the platform.
Campbell Brown, Facebook's Head of News Partnerships, said she was "astonished" by the media's negative response to Facebook's choice not to fact-check political ads. In a post on her personal Facebook page on Wednesday, Brown echoed comments from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said the public should take responsibility for separating fact from fiction.
"Having spent most of my pre-Facebook career as a journalist covering politics, I have been astonished at the reaction by other journalists to Facebook's decision not to police speech from political candidates," Brown wrote. "I strongly believe it should be the role of the press to dissect the truth or lies found in political ads - not engineers at a tech company."
Brown's comments come as Facebook faces a barrage of criticism for its hands-off policy with regards to political ads ahead of the 2020 US presidential election.
While Brown's pointed out the unsuitability of enlisting Facebook's "engineers" as fact checkers, many critics are in fact calling for Facebook to rely on third-party fact checkers, as it currently does for the non-political ads that run on its platform, or to cease running political ads until it has figured out a viable solution.
Brown did not address a letter signed by more than 250 Facebook employees that made specific recommendations for how the company can implement fact-checking for political ads.
Zuckerberg laid out Facebook's stance on political ads and freedom of expression during a speech at Georgetown University earlier this month.
"We don't fact-check political ads. We don't do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying," Zuckerberg said. "And if content is newsworthy, we also won't take it down even if it would otherwise conflict with many of our standards."
Zuckerberg said he had considered removing political ads entirely from Facebook because they only make up a small portion of the company's revenue. However, he said that banning ads from politicians could create a slippery-slope in which ads dealing with specific issues like healthcare and immigration could also be deemed as political and inappropriate for advertisements.
The stance drew attention from US lawmakers including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who pressured Zuckerberg on the policy during his testimony with the House Financial Services Committee earlier in October. Zuckerberg once again reiterated that politicians like President Donald Trump could intentionally include lies and misinformation in paid advertisements on Facebook.
Facebook says it remains committed to both protecting freedom of expression on the platform, and combating misinformation that could interfere with political elections. Brown is overseeing the launch of the new Facebook News tab, which will include a curated-list of articles that are fact-checked for misleading information and original reporting.
Brown said all the stories in Facebook News will meet these standards, even when they include published content that she personally disagrees with.
"There will invariably be news organizations, ideological or otherwise, who say or write things that I find abhorrent, but I will always stand by their right to express their views," Brown wrote. "It has been a long held American ideal that we win the day with better arguments, not by silencing those we disagree with. And especially in today's hyper-partisan political environment, it is critical that we hold onto the values that make our country different and special."