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Facebook would allow doctored videos to run as political ads

08 Nov 2019  |  Michaela Jefferson 
Facebook would allow doctored videos to run as political ads

Facebook has confirmed that it would allow the Conservative party's "doctored" Keir Starmer video to run as a paid political ad on its platform, alongside calls for UK electoral law to be "brought into the 21st century".

"We don’t believe a private company like Facebook should censor politicians," Rebecca Stimson, head of UK public policy, said on a call with journalists.

"In general we believe political speech should be heard and we don’t feel it is right for private companies like us to fact-check or judge the veracity of what politicians and political parties say."

Instead, Stimson called on the UK Parliament and regulators to update electoral laws to provide better clarity for everyone - from political parties to the platforms they use to promote their campaigns - on questions such as what a political ad is and whether there should be rules on what can and cannot be said.

Facebook also confirmed that it would not be changing its micro-targeting policies ahead of the UK general election, and that it would not put a temporary pause on political advertising during the current election until new legislation can be introduced, despite calls from campaigners.

"It would be wrong to pull it at this stage in the process," Stimson said.

However, the platform has launched a new policy to tackle the increasing number of pages which are failing to clearly disclose the organisations behind them and are misleading users into thinking they are independently operated.

"We want to make sure Facebook is used to engage authentically, and that users understand who is speaking to them and what perspective they are representing," said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy.

If a page is found to be misleading people about its purpose by concealing its ownership, it will now be required to go through Facebook's business verification process and show more information on the page itself about who it is run by.

Gleicher also confirmed that the tech giant has not yet seen evidence of widespread foreign operations aimed at influencing the UK election.

Facebook has come under fire recently for its stance against intervening in political advertising, with CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg grilled on the subject by US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last month.

So far, the platform has taken a number of steps to clean up elections, including labelling political ads and putting all political ads into a publicly accessible Ad Library (including information on the types of people who saw them and how much was spent), increasing investment in safety and security, and cracking down on fake accounts.

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