Does Facebook need to fact check its political ads?
By Joe Harker
As information becomes an ever more valuable commodity the ways it is delivered come under increased scrutiny.
Lots of political ads are published on social media site Facebook and some ads have been pulled up for being factually incorrect.
Does Facebook have a responsibility to only allow factually correct adverts on the site?
Facebook is one of the most popular social media sites in the world, if people keep seeing information every time they log on then it'll start to hammer its way into their consciousness.
Comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen came out with one of the most withering criticisms of the social media site, saying that if it had been around in the 1930s Facebook would have let the Nazis post anti-semitic adverts.
Misleading information is to democracy what cancer is to the healthy human body. If ignored it can grow and fester into something that is impossible to remove, ultimately killing the thing it inhabits.
An informed electorate is crucial for a healthy democracy and electorates in various countries are increasingly becoming less well informed, succumbing to misleading adverts that warp their worldview and prey on their fears.
If Facebook doesn't believe it has a responsibility to its users and the world to ensure the political ads they host are actually true then they should. Otherwise they aren't fit for purpose.
The Counter Claim:
Facebook are going to make some changes, but are instead planning on focusing on microtargeting, which is where particular adverts are specifically targeted at a very small group.
They are considering whether to increase the minimum amount of people an advert can be targeted at from the current lower limit of 100 to a few thousand.
This would crack down on adverts targeted at an extremely niche audience that might not get spotted by the media at larger but will hit home with the intended recipients.
It's a start in the fight against misinformation, as it's hard to pick up on a lie if it's only spread around a small amount of people.
There are other ways to tackle false advertising than fact checking and Facebook doesn't want to turn away advertisers who keep showing up with money.
Google has set an example for Facebook to follow by tightening up a ban on "demonstrably false claims". They want to explicitly ban deepfake videos and doctored images.
They said the sheer volume of ads they have to check means they can't look at them all, but they will crack down on the clearest violations.
It's a difficult job to keep up with the necessary rigors of fact checking but it is a necessary job when we live in the information age. The alternative is letting anyone say anything they want without repercussion, at which point the truth basically doesn't matter any longer.