Facebook has an outsized influence on popular opinion, making it a favorite of political campaigns, as an ideal vehicle for political ads.
Facebook makes it easy to reach a target audience, and with all of the sharing of ads among a group, information can spread with ease. Even inaccurate information.
While other tech companies such as Twitter and Google strive to stop misinformation by enforcing limits, Facebook feels it is not their job to police what is put on their pages, even when under pressure to do so by Congress.
When accused of putting profit over truth, Facebook said that they make most of their revenue from commercial ads, and have tried to downplay the financial opportunity of political ads.
Here are some of the concerns that Facebook’s policies have caused for the upcoming presidential race:
Targeting Political Ads is Vital to Political Campaigns
Facebook’s ad targeting is a vital tool for political campaigns. They use it for registering voters, building crowds, fund-raising, and organizing volunteers.
Criticism of Facebook Follows Political Lines
There are criticisms on both political sides for Facebook. The left, liberal criticism is that there is not enough policing of social media content, while the right, conservative criticism is that they are being muzzled and their views are not being seen.
The Effect of Facebook’s Policy on the Trump Campaign
The Trump campaign has spent more than $27 million on Facebook, largely due to Facebook’s policy on non interference in targeting ads and not setting standards for fact checking.
A spokesperson for the Trump campaign feels that this encourages more Americans to be involved in the political process, and that the Trump campaign ads are “always accurate”. The Trump campaign feels that the more restrictive policies of Twitter and Google might lead to voter suppression.
The Effect of Facebook’s Policy on the Democratic Presidential Candidates
Senator Elizabeth Warren feels the major technology companies are too large and should be broken up, and that they should face tougher policies for letting political figures lie.
The Biden campaign has called out Facebook for allowing attack ads and have accused the Trump campaign of lying in political ads on Facebook, and pointed out that Facebook continues to condone the lies, because of the profits they are making for “paid misinformation”.
It’s the misinformation that is the target of the Democratic criticism. They want more regulation for fact-checking, but they don’t want changes to how Facebook targets the ads.
Lack of Legislation Means the Individual Companies Are Left to Design Their Own Policies
Where there is no legislation, companies like Facebook can set policies that benefit their brand and make their consumers happy.
In the case of Facebook, they believe in the principle that, regardless of what a political leader might say, people should be able to hear directly from them and then scrutinize what has been said, and publicly debate it.
It is the scrutinizing aspect that is the difficulty. Not everyone in the public has critical thinking skills, but there is hope that debate can overcome that problem.