The Democratic National Committee slammed Facebook on Tuesday, claiming the company is allowing President Donald Trump “to mislead the American people on their platform unimpeded.”
The comments made by DNC CEO Seema Nanda to CNN came after Facebook confirmed last week it would not fact-check posts or advertisements from politicians. The Trump campaign has spent almost $20 million on Facebook ads since May 2018.
“We know that Trump has an utter disregard for the truth,” Nanda told CNN. Facebook’s policy allows Trump to share misinformation, she said.
Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom and now a Facebook vice president, said in a speech in Washington last week, “It is not our role to intervene when politicians speak.”
Facebook has hired third-party fact checkers to curb its misinformation problem. When fact-checkers deem something to be false Facebook downranks the material, meaning it will be seen by less people – but posts from politicians are exempt.
“We don’t believe,” Clegg wrote in a blog post last week, “that it’s an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny.”
Nanda said Tuesday that the DNC was “deeply disappointed in Facebook’s decision to exempt statements from political candidates from its fact-checking policy.”
Allowing Trump to post misleading or false information “sets a dangerous precedent for others to follow suit,” she said.
“Social media platforms have a responsibility to protect our democracy and counter disinformation online. This is a serious missed opportunity by Facebook,” she added.
Clegg argues that his company should not have the power to censor politicians.
“Would it be acceptable to society at large to have a private company in effect become a self-appointed referee for everything that politicians say?” Clegg asked during his speech last week at the Atlantic Festival in Washington.
“I don’t believe it would be. In open democracies, voters rightly believe that, as a general rule, they should be able to judge what politicians say themselves.”
The DNC’s complaints come as the Trump campaign is blitzing Facebook with ads pushing back against the impeachment inquiry.
The Trump campaign spent up to $2 million on 1,800 Facebook ads on the issue last week.
Clegg said if a politician shared a link or image that had already been debunked by Facebook’s third-party fact checkers it would be downranked and not allowed to run in an ad.
Asked about the DNC’s comments on Tuesday, a Facebook spokesperson pointed to the remarks made by Clegg last week.