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A Painful Reminder. A Moment for Change

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WASHINGTON — In an open display of discord with Facebook executives on Monday, hundreds of the company’s employees signed a letter to Mark Zuckerberg and other leaders of the social network demanding a reversal of the executive decision to allow politicians to lie in political ads.

“Misinformation affects us all. Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for,” they wrote in the letter. “We strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn’t protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.”

The employees set forth a list of suggested changes to company policy, including holding political ads to the same factual standard as other ads on the site, restricting targeting of political ads, and placing spending caps on individual politicians and their campaigns.

Facebook has been embroiled in controversy since it announced changes last month to its policies against misleading ads, in a way that gives politicians and their campaigns free rein to lie. Previously Facebook had maintained that politicians must abide by the same standards as every other advertiser on its site, including its rule that “prohibits ads that include claims debunked by third-party fact checkers.”

Free Press Vice President of Strategy and Senior Counsel Jessica J. González made the following statement:

“Facebook's own employees are rising up against the company’s dangerous decision to help politicians lie to U.S. voters. They know what’s increasingly obvious to others across the country: Letting politicians lie on Facebook isn’t about free speech at all; it’s about politics and profits, not principles.

“Free Press stands in solidarity with the employees and their thoughtful list of demands. The restriction on user targeting is especially needed. We’ve seen political operatives and others use Facebook’s advanced data tools to exclude certain classes of people from receiving beneficial information, or conversely target them with misinformation designed to keep them from voting in a certain way or turning out at all. Facebook must do more to prevent politicians and others from using its tools to discriminate.

“We hope that employees at other prominent online platforms will take courage from those speaking out at Facebook and demand more accountability whenever their bosses allow their services to be used in ways that harm or mislead others.”

Free Press is a cofounder of Change the Terms — a coalition of researchers and free-speech, digital-rights and civil-rights advocates that has developed model corporate policies and terms of service to help internet companies stop the proliferation of hate online while protecting public safety and promoting diverse voices.

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