Facebook Exempts Politicians From Community Standards

Oct 24, 2019

 

In September, Facebook exempted politician's content from community standards. KDNK's Lucas Turner spoke with LaShawn Warren from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to find out more..

Facebook Headquarters
Credit Minette Lontsie

WARREN: "Facebook has community standards which basically outline what is and is not acceptable on it's platform. Unnacceptable content ranges from fraud and deception to hate-speech, bullying and harrassment. All of the users of Facebook have to abide by these community standards, but over the last couple of weeks Facebook announced an automatic exemption for speech of politicians from its community standards"

Facebook has what is called a "Newsworthiness Exemption" for content. This means if someone makes a statement or shares a post that breaks community standards, Facebook will still allow it on the platform if they believe the public interest in seeing the content outweighs the risk of harm.

 

In September, Facebook announced that all speech from politicians is automatically deemed newsworthy, essentially giving those politicians a free pass to violate community standards on the platform.

 

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs and Communications states that facebook does not believe refereeing political speech is an approproate role for the platform to play...

 

But LaShawn Warren says during elections, politicians can use facebook and other social media platforms to spread disinformation and engage in voter supression tactics.

WARREN: "They could certainly say 'Well, we believe that all polling places should be moved to a police precinct.' That has happened in the south and it has had a chilling effect particularly on communities of color. They can also say that police officers should be stationed outside of polling places to prevent voter fraud. We know that a police presence particularly in communities of color has a devastating impact."

LaShawn makes the argument that politicians statements can depress voter turnout, even if the statements being made by the politician are not actually true.

 

In most cases when it comes to election related content, facebook employs a third-party fact checking program. But the newsworthiness exemption for politicians means their content does not get fact checked.

 

WARREN: "The content that they put up, it is not fact-checked. It is completely removed from the guidelines that everyone else's content has to abide by."

 

The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights wants facebook to rescind the policy that gives politicians an automatic newsworthiness exemption. But facebook argues that policing political speech would make them an active political participant, and therefore violate free speech principles. A statement from facebook in September says they do not want to prevent politicians speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny..

 

Read facebook's comment on the policy.

 

Read an Op-Ed by the President of The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights