Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been under fire of late for allowing politicians to put outright lies in ads on the platform, and Capitol Hill lawmakers took their turn to grill the social media site founder on Wednesday.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., reportedly went after Zuckerberg in an attempt to force him to answer why Facebook’s team can fact check certain things but not political ads in an attempt to crack down on election interference.
Ocasio-Cortez presented a scenario where an ad targeting black voters could offer up the wrong election date to try and trick them.
“You announced recently that the official policy of Facebook now allows politicians to pay to spread disinformation in 2020 elections and in the future,” she said. “So I just want to know how far I can push this in the next year.”
Zuckerberg then said such a scenario isn’t allowed because of a Facebook rule banning voter suppression.
“So there is some threshold where you will fact-check political advertisements. Is that what you’re telling me?” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Would I be able to run advertisements on Facebook targeting Republicans in primaries saying that they voted for the Green New Deal? I mean, if you’re not fact-checking political advertisements, I’m just trying to understand the bounds here, what’s fair game.”
Zuckerberg said he didn’t “know the answer to that off the top of my head.”
“You don’t know if I’ll be able to do that,” she asked.
“I think probably,” Zuckerberg replied.
“Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact checking on political advertisements?” she asked.
“Well, Congresswoman, I think lying is bad, and I think if you were to run an ad that had a lie in it, that would be bad,” he answered, “That’s different from it being in our position, the right thing to do to prevent your constituents or people in an election from seeing that you had lied.”
“So you won’t take down lies, or you will take down lies?” she said. “I think this is a pretty simple yes or no.”
“It depends on the context that it shows up,” Zuckerberg answered.
Facebook has come under fire a lot recently regarding the political ads and its use of private user data and the security of that data.
Democratic primary hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign ran an ad directly targeting Facebook with a lie — that Zuckerberg had personally endorsed President Donald Trump’s reelection — to see if it could pass the fact checkers, which it did.
“You’re probably shocked,” that ad said. “And you might be thinking, ‘how could this possibly be true?’ Well, it’s not.”
Warren said she ran the ad to “see just how far” the company’s policy goes.
“We intentionally made a Facebook ad with false claims and submitted it to Facebook’s ad platform to see if it’d be approved,” she tweeted. “It got approved quickly.”
Facebook’s stock has been left largely unharmed by the recent controversies, with shares down about 2.7%, or $5.10 a share, over the past week. Shares are still up just over 20% for the year at $185.22.
Editor’s note: In addition to taking the poll, discuss why a social media site like Facebook should or shouldn’t police political ads for outright lies and falsehoods. Share your thoughts below.