- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2019

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday defended political advertisements being hosted on his social networking site the same day Twitter announced it would be banning the same ads from its platform.

Mdr. Zuckerberg shared his comments during an earnings call on Facebook, asking: “Right now, the content debate is about political ads. Should we block political ads with false statements? Should we block all political ads?”

“I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news. And although I’ve considered whether we should not carry these ads in the past, and I’ll continue to do so, on balance so far I’ve thought we should continue,” he said. “Ads can be an important part of voice — especially for candidates and advocacy groups the media might not otherwise cover, so they can get their message into debates.”

Mr. Zuckerberg added that it’s “hard to define” where to draw the line and instead advocated for allowing more transparency in the origins of the ads.

“Ads on Facebook are already more transparent than anywhere else. We have a political ads archive so anyone can scrutinize every ad that’s run — you can see every message, who saw it, how much was spent — something that no TV or print media does,” he said.

Mr. Zuckerberg also said he doesn’t think Facebook “incentivizes inflammatory content” and says Facebook’s “values on voice and free expression are not partisan.”

Mr. Zuckerberg’s stance came as Twitter announced it would be banning political ads, with Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey arguing, “A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.”

He also seemed to take shots at Facebook by tweeting: “For instance, it’s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad … well … they can say whatever they want! [wink emoji]’”

Facebook has been under fire after a fiery congressional hearing last week where Mr. Zuckerberg defended not fact-checking political ads.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, began pressing him on whether she could take out advertisements accusing Republicans of supporting the Green New Deal.

“So you will take down lies, or you won’t take down lies? I think this is a pretty simple yes or no,” she asked, to which Mr. Zuckerberg replied it would depend on the “context.”

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