- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2019

Democrats called Facebook “unprepared” to handle the 2020 U.S. presidential elections after the company’s top executive defended its decision not to fact-check political ads.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and a campaign director for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden each took issue with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and CEO, and the explanation he offered Thursday for the platform’s new ad policy.

“I don’t think most people want to live in a world where you can only post things that tech companies judge to be 100 percent true,” Mr. Zuckerberg said during a speech at Georgetown University. “I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians in a democracy.”

Ms. Warren and Mr. Biden are currently both among front-runners seeking the Democratic nomination to run against in 2020 against President Trump, whose reelection campaign has already invested heavily on Facebook ads that his critics have characterized as untruthful.

Facebook announced last month that it would not subject political ads to the same scrutiny as others, and its CEO’s latest remarks did nothing to dispel concerns raised about the platform being weaponized to Mr. Trump’s benefit for the second U.S. presidential race in a row.

“Mark Zuckerberg’s speech today shows how little he learned from 2016, and how unprepared Facebook is to handle the 2020 election,” Ms. Warren said on Twitter. “Facebook is actively helping Trump spread lies and misinformation. Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once. They might do it again — and profit off of it.”

Bill Russo, the Biden campaign’s deputy communications director, concurred.

Facebook has chosen to sell Americans’ personal data to politicians looking to target them with disproven lies and conspiracy theories, crowding out the voices of working Americans,” Mr. Russo said in a statement. “Zuckerberg attempted to use the Constitution as a shield for his company’s bottom line, and his choice to cloak Facebook’s policy in a feigned concern for free expression demonstrates how unprepared his company is for this unique moment in our history and how little it has learned over the past few years.”

A message requesting comment from Facebook was not immediately answered.

Federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies have determined that Russians bought online advertisements displayed to U.S. voters during the last presidential election attacking Mr. Trump’s opponent in the race, former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Facebook, Twitter and other platforms weaponized in 2016 subsequently introduced new policies in response, while legislation pending on Capitol Hill would subject social networking services to further reform if passed.

Both the Biden campaign and Democratic National Committee asked Facebook earlier this month to stop running an ad purchased by Mr. Trump’s reelection team that alleged the former vice president acted corruptly while in office and that fellow Democrats are trying to “steal” the race. Facebook and several major TV networks have agreed to run the ad, while CNN has refused, saying the ad “makes assertions that have been proven demonstrably false.”

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