Judd Legum reports:
Facebook is allowing a major pro-Trump Super PAC, the Committee to Defend the President, to run ads with lies. The Committee to Defend the President, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, is one of the "two biggest non-party outside spenders of this cycle."
Since Saturday, the Committee to Defend the President is running multiple ads that claim former Vice President Joe Biden is "a criminal who used his power as Vice President to make him and his son RICH."
This claim is false, according to Facebook's own fact-checking partners. PolitiFact, which is part of Facebook's fact-checking program, wrote in September that "Hunter Biden did do work in Ukraine, but we found nothing to suggest Vice President Biden acted to help him." Another Facebook fact-checking partner, FactCheck.org, named Trump's suggestion that Biden did anything improper with respect to Ukraine one of its "Whoppers of the Year."
Facebook’s ad policy specifically bans ads that have been debunked by third-party fact-checkers:
Facebook prohibits ads that include claims debunked by third-party fact checkers or, in certain circumstances, claims debunked by organizations with particular expertise. Advertisers that repeatedly post information deemed to be false may have restrictions placed on their ability to advertise on Facebook. Find out more about Fact Checking on Facebook here.
Facebook has been under fire, including from its own employees, for letting outright lies run in advertisements from politicians. So far, executives at the social network have hidden behind euphemisms, with one Facebook executive writing that “people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all.”
By contrast, ads like these from super PACs are supposed to be fully covered by Facebook’s fact-checking policy.
Facebook’s special treatment of Republicans
We’ve seen similar examples from candidates. In October, Facebook refused to take down a false ad from President Donald Trump’s campaign about opponent Joe Biden even after a request from the former vice president’s campaign. Like with the super PAC ads that Legum has flagged, there is no question that the October ad was false: Facebook’s own fact-checking partner FactCheck.org deemed it so, writing that the ad “creates a false narrative about Joe Biden to discredit the impeachment inquiry, but it doesn’t have the ‘facts’ to support its claim.”
This policy was implemented in September 2019, when Facebook changed its rules to no longer prohibit ads that include “deceptive, false, or misleading content, including deceptive claims, offers, or methods,” instead barring only those ads “debunked by third-party fact checkers” or in some cases “by organizations with particular expertise.” Facebook also said that “ads from political candidates are ineligible for fact-checking.” The company claims that “the changes don’t represent a shift in policy but were issued to make existing rules clearer.”
The social network has neglected to enforce the few rules that it has. Despite prohibiting attacks that target a group of people based on their immigration status, Facebook let Trump run over 2,000 ads in early 2019 referring to immigration to the United States as an “invasion,” which has long been a white supremacist talking point. Facebook also let Trump run hundreds of ads in April of 2019 that violated its policy about “personal attributes” of users.
The only thing that Facebook seems to really care about is giving special treatment to Republicans.