Trump campaign sparks debate over misinformation in Facebook ads

A controversial new ad from President Trump’s reelection campaign is the latest example of how Facebook has become the Wild West of political advertising.

The tech giant is refusing to take down a Trump ad that includes claims multiple fact-checkers have declared false and that cable giant CNN has declined to run — sparking a debate over online misinformation and freedom of speech.

Trump’s ad, which hits back at Democrats calling for the president’s impeachment over his dealings with Ukraine, declares that former Vice President Joe Biden “PROMISED Ukraine $1 BILLION DOLLARS if they fired the prosecutor investigating his son’s company.”

There’s no evidence Biden pressured Ukraine to remove the prosecutor in question in order to help his son, who served on the board of Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company in that country. CNN quickly declared it would not run the ad, saying it made “assertions that have been proven demonstrably false.”

But even after Biden’s presidential campaign demanded Facebook remove the ad, the social network has kept it up, part of a laissez-faire policy when it comes to advertising from politicians.

Since it went online late last month, the ad has been viewed between 2 and 6 million times, according to the company’s database, which reports ad impressions in ranges. Trump’s campaign spent between $17,000 and $56,000 to send it out.

Facebook did delete one version of Trump’s controversial ad accusing Biden — but that was because of profanity, a company spokesman said. The new version of the ad, which bleeps out a video clip of Biden swearing, is still online.

The company — which has faced allegations of liberal bias from conservatives — has stressed that it wants to stay away from fact-checking candidates’ ads. Ads from politicians won’t be subject to the same rules against misinformation that most other ads on the platform are, the company announced last month.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Katie Harbath, Facebook’s policy director for global elections, wrote in the letter to the Biden campaign. “When a politician speaks or makes an ad, we do not send it to third party fact checkers.”

The ad is also running on Twitter and YouTube. And the cable news channels aren’t unanimous — Fox News and MSNBC both allowed it to run.

But Facebook has become the front line of the battle for public opinion on impeachment. Trump’s campaign and a joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee has spent more than $5 million on Facebook and Google ads since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry two weeks ago, dwarfing his Democratic rivals’ efforts on the platform.

In the last few days, Trump’s campaign has flooded supporters’ news feeds with ads calling for an investigation of “Quid Pro Joe” and decrying the move toward impeachment as a “witch hunt.” So far this year, his campaign has run more than …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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