Facebook announced it’s letting politicians say the kind of stuff that normal users can’t — just in time for the heated 2020 presidential race.
Starting today, Facebook view all speech from politicians as “newsworthy content” meaning it will be exempt from the platform’s . In addition, Facebook reiterated its existing policy that exempts politicians’ speech from its fact-checking program.
The company notes that it has had a newsworthiness exemption since 2016, which allowed statements and shared posts that broke Facebook guidelines if the public interest outweighed the risk of harm. However, from today going forward, content from politicians will be seen as newsworthy as a “general rule.”
The updates came from VP of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg while speaking at the Atlantic Festival in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Clegg, himself, as he notes in his detailing his speech, worked as a politician in the UK for decades before joining Facebook.
“We have a responsibility to protect the platform from outside interference, and to make sure that when people pay us for political ads we make it as transparent as possible,” said Clegg. “But it is not our role to intervene when politicians speak.”
“That’s why I want to be really clear today – we do not submit speech by politicians to our independent fact-checkers, and we generally allow it on the platform even when it would otherwise breach our normal content rules,” he continued.
While Facebook will not fact-check content from politicians, whether it’s organic or paid advertising, it will continue to demote content and provide additional resources for previously fact-checked links, photos, and videos shared by politicians from third-party sources.
However, politicians won’t be exempt from every rule.
“Of course, there are exceptions,” stated Clegg. “Broadly speaking they are two-fold: where speech endangers people; and where we take money, which is why we have more stringent rules on advertising than we do for ordinary speech and rhetoric.”
Clegg expounded on this in his post.
“We take a number of factors into consideration, including country-specific circumstances, like whether there is an election underway or the country is at war; the nature of the speech, including whether it relates to governance or politics; and the political structure of the country, including whether the country has a free press,” he wrote. “In evaluating the risk of harm, we will consider the severity of the harm. Content that has the potential to incite violence, for example, may pose a safety risk that outweighs the public interest value.”
So while Facebook will allow a politician’s paid ads to run without scrutiny from fact-checkers, the ads still have to abide by the company’s community standards.
Other social media companies have had to deal with similar problems. As President Donald Trump’s social media platform of choice, Twitter received plenty of backlash over from its rules. Clearly, however, it’s not the only one struggling with issue.
In short, there’s one set of guidelines for politicians on social media, and one set of guidelines for all the rest of us.