Zuckerberg on allowing political ads: ‘People should be able to judge for themselves’

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is defending the company’s policy against removing political advertising that contains misinformation, telling CBS News that the network’s users “should be able to judge for themselves.”

“[I]t’s really important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying, so they can make their own judgments,” Zuckerberg told CBS’ Gayle King in a joint interview with his wife, Priscilla Chan. “And, you know, I don’t think that a private company should be censoring politicians or news.”

King pressed the CEO on criticisms the policy has faced, including nearly 200 Facebook employees who wrote a letter arguing that “free speech and paid speech are not the same.”

“Well, this is a clearly a very complex issue, and a lot of people have — have a lot of different opinions,” Zuckerberg responded. “At the end of the day, I just think that in a democracy, people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.”

Pressed by King on whether that still applied in cases when the ads were spreading false claims, Zuckerberg repeated, “I think that people should be able to judge for themselves the character of politicians.”

Facebook faced criticism earlier this year after it denied a request from former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to remove an ad being run by President Trump’s reelection campaign that questions Biden’s role in the firing of a Ukranian prosecutor.

The video accuses Biden of offering military aid money to Ukraine if it agreed to remove the prosecutor investigating a company tied to his son, Hunter Biden. There is no evidence that Biden pushed for the prosecutor’s removal to protect his son.

Facebook said the ad could remain due to “Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and belief that in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is.”

Zuckerberg also addressed the potential ramifications of antitrust investigations into the social media giant. Forty-seven states and two federal agencies are currently probing whether the company is engaged in anti-competitive practices.

“There’s no question that there are real issues that — that we need to keep on working on … But I think it’s important to not lose track of just the enormous good that can be done by bringing people together and building community,” Zuckerberg said.

The interview comes as numerous politicians and presidential candidates, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have sharply criticized the social media giant and have called big tech companies to be broken up.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) earlier this year in a public hearing questioned Zuckerberg on the extent of false information a candidate would be permitted to spread on Facebook under its guidelines.

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Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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