Open Letter to Facebook on Running Lies in Political Ads

Dear Facebook,

Please reconsider the stance you have taken on running false political ads.

Politicians can and will lie on the stump, in debates and town halls, on social media, or on campaign websites. If you want to be a host to the full spectrum of political speech, maximizing freedom of expression — as you claim – then let their updates flow onto profiles and pages, and then add layers of context and veracity to add friction to conspiracies and misinformation.

But please remember that media and tech companies do not have to take money from governments or campaigns or corporate PACs to spread known lies in paid ads.

Facebook can uphold freedom of expression by letting lies by politicians stand AND election integrity by refusing to take money to distribute debunked lies.

Not shifting this policy will have a predictable outcome: unethical politicians & autocrats can and will weaponize disinformation on this platform. You already know how lies online can drive atrocities offline from your experience in Myanmar.

Facebook staff: your company doesn’t have to accept money to spread disinformation in the form of political ads. You don’t need that marginal income.

You have power to influence Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and the board to refuse to be co-opted as a platform for lies.

Please remake a more ethical policy that minimizes the harms made possible by the social network you created, and then stand firmly by it in the face of the inevitable bad faith attacks from the politicians who demand the right to pay you to spread their lies.

As always, thank you for listening.

Alex Howard

Dad, writer, citizen, chef, cyclist, skeptical optimist, cereal dilettante. Open government advocate at E-PluribusUnum.org.

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