Facebook is under fire again, accused of not following its own rules mandating the removal of misinformation.
Those policies, if enforced, would place the social media giant on a collision course with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Facebook rarely removes misinformation posted by Trump or his campaign, but Twitter has shown a willingness for more aggressive action.
In a scathing letter acquired by Axios, Joe Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said that Facebook has consistently declined to take action against content such as this video from Donald Trump Jr. The video asks viewers to “enlist today” in an “army for Trump’s election security operation” to combat alleged Democratic plans to “add millions of fraudulent ballots.”
“No company that considers itself a force for good in democracy, and that purports to take voter suppression seriously, would allow this dangerous claptrap to spread to millions of people,” Dillon wrote. “Removing this video should have been the easiest of calls under your policies, yet it remains up today.”
Dillon also pointed to Donald Trump’s posts encouraging people to vote twice. Neither those posts nor the aforementioned video have been removed, Facebook instead opting to simply label them as misleading. Facebook’s policies supposedly ban posts misrepresenting whether or how ballots will be counted, but posts from Donald Trump alleging that mailed ballots cannot accurately be tallied have remained up with labels.
Facebook has taken a more passive approach to combat misinformation on its platform, preferring labeling posts and directing users toward a
voting information center in lieu of actually taking down prominent sources of falsehoods.
That said, there are limits to Facebook’s permissive policies.
Both Facebook and Twitter removed a video from Trump claiming that children were “almost immune” to COVID-19. Twitter went even further, giving Trump Jr. a 12-hour ban from the platform and preventing either account from tweeting until the video was removed.
The Biden letter additionally attacks Facebook’s ad policies, which allow for outright lies.
Facebook officals have repeatedly cited concerns for free speech in not regulating ads, saying they do not want a corporation deciding what is and is not true. Instead, they have announced they will not accept ads in the week before the election to give people time to combat any misinformation.
The sum total of these policies has created what Dillon calls “the nation’s foremost propagator of disinformation about the voting process.”
Twitter, in contrast, has taken more aggressive action against misinformation. In addition to labeling misinformation and hiding it from viewers, Twitter banned political ads altogether. While the policy creates some questions over what is and is not political in the first place, it gives the company broad power to remove ads that contain falsehoods or misinformation.
“It has nothing to do with free expression,” Dillon’s letter concludes, “As you say, ‘Voting is voice.’ Facebook has committed to not allow that voice to be drowned out by a storm of disinformation, but has failed at every opportunity to follow through on that commitment. We will be calling out those failures as they occur over the coming 36 days.”