John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
In an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is urging the social media giant to stop “amplifying untrustworthy content,” saying it allows President Donald Trump to spread fear and misleading information.
The campaign wants Facebook to fix the problems it says “pose a threat to free and fair elections.” The list of recommendations includes fact-checking election-related material, particularly material that goes viral; and to stop “allowing politicians to hide behind paid misinformation.” The campaign called for a two-week period before the November election where all political ads would be fact-checked before Facebook approves them. Finally, the campaign wants Facebook to put into place “clear rules — applied to everyone, including Donald Trump — that prohibit threatening behavior and lies about how to participate in the election.”
With less than 150 days until Election Day, the stakes couldn’t be higher. We’ve got to fix Facebook to protect our democracy and ensure fair elections.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 11, 2020
In response, Facebook said it would “protect political speech, even when we strongly disagree with it.” Facebook’s response noted that, two weeks ago, Trump issued an executive order “directing Federal agencies to prevent social media sites from engaging in activities like fact-checking political statements,” and Biden’s petition appears to ask for the opposite.
“Just as they have done with broadcast networks — where the US government prohibits rejecting politicians’ campaign ads — the people’s elected representatives should set the rules, and we will follow them,” Facebook said.
Facebook has faced intense criticism for its hands-off approach to posts on its platform from the president that appear to violate its rules.
Zuckerberg said on May 29th that Facebook would not take any action against a post where Trump said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” even after Twitter flagged a similar post for “glorifying violence.” Zuckerberg said Facebook’s position was “that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies.”
“Real changes to Facebook’s policies for their platform and how they enforce them are necessary to protect against a repeat of the role that disinformation played in the 2016 election, and that continues to threaten our democracy today,” Biden campaign spokesperson Bill Russo said in a statement to The Verge.
An analysis by The New York Times found that Biden’s campaign spent some $5 million on Facebook ads in the first part of June, spending $1.6 million on June 4th alone, according to Facebook records. That’s three times the single-day record of the Trump campaign’s Facebook spend, according to the Times.
The Trump campaign did not immediately reply to a request for comment Thursday.