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Journalists React After Facebook Decided To Exempt Politicians From Fact-Checking

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Journalists criticized Facebook on Tuesday after the Silicon Valley giant announced it would not sic fact-checkers on politicians who post comments that might violate the company’s policies against publishing false content.

Reporters from The New York Times and elsewhere said the company’s decision to exempt politicians like President Donald Trump from a fact-checkers’ gavel will likely turn social media into caldrons of misinformation. Facebook said the move was done to ensure speech from politicians will be heard and seen ahead of elections.

The move was not popular in many media circles.

“It’s a good thing no politicians have ever run Facebook disinformation campaigns in order to tip elections or sow division, that’d be bad,” Kevin Roose, a tech columnist at TheNYT, said in a tweet Tuesday after Facebook announced the change in a blog post.

Others made similar remarks.

“After years of journalists, activists, and politicians trying to get Facebook to try and do literally anything to stop political bad actors from using their platforms to spread propaganda and chaos, they have officially just said, ‘fuck it,'” Ryan Broder, a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News, said in a tweet Tuesday.

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, said in the blog post that it will treat speech from politicians “as newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard.” The said company that, going forward, it will exempt politicians’ speech from its third-party fact-checking.

There will also be exceptions, as Facebook’s release notes: “Where speech endangers people; and where we take money, which is why we have more stringent rules on advertising than we do for ordinary speech and rhetoric.”

Some media analysts suggested Facebook is trying to protect big-name politicians who drive content toward the platform. (RELATED: Exclusive: Facebook Removed False Label After Scientists Said Climate ‘Alarmist’ act Checkers Are Targeting Them)

“This is possibly the worst of all policy decisions on Facebook’s part: ‘valued political customers’ should be subject to special, more (not less) stringent policy enforcement criteria — as they have a bigger responsibility to the public in terms of truth, dignity and trust,” Fabio Chiusi, a researcher at AlgorithmWatch, told his Twitter followers on the day of the announcement.

Alex Stamos, a former Facebook executive, had a different take. “The ‘these companies should control political speech by politicians in democracies’ argument is completely incompatible with everything the same proponents say about antitrust, platform power and unaccountable executives,” he said in a tweet replying to Roose’s initial tweet.

Facebook did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment but a spokeswoman did direct the DCNF to a portion of Clegg’s comments, which state that it is not the company’s “role to intervene when politicians speak.”

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