Mark Zuckerberg defends Facebook decision to run political ads

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Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has stood by his company’s decision to run political adverts after Twitter announced it would ban them.

Twitter boss Jack Dorsey said in a series of tweets on 30 October that all political advertising on the social media platform would cease on 22 November.

It came as Facebook faced criticism after disclosing it would not fact-check most political ads, instead only banning adverts containing claims debunked by third-party fact-checkers.

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Less than an hour after Dorsey’s announcement, Zuckerberg spoke about what he said was Facebook’s deep belief “that political speech is important” and stood by his company’s decision.

“Some people accuse us of allowing speech because they think all we care about is making money, and that’s wrong,” he said in a Facebook earnings conference call after the Twitter announcement.

“I can assure you that, from a business perspective, the controversy this creates far outweighs the very small percentage of our business that these political ads make up.

“I don’t think anyone can say that we are not doing what we believe or we haven’t thought hard about these issues.”

Meanwhile, Twitter chief executive Dorsey said political message reach “should be earned, not bought”.

He said in a series of tweets: “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.”

Facebook’s revenue in the past three months was up 29% at 17.7bn US dollars (£13.7bn) compared with 13.7bn dollars (£10.6bn) for the same period last year, while monthly active users increased by 8% to 2.45 billion, its latest financial report shows.

Advertising revenue also increased from 13.5bn dollars (£10.5bn) to 17.4bn dollars (£13.5bn).

Mark Zuckerberg comments
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg (Niall Carson/PA)

The results were published as the firm agreed to pay a £500,000 fine following an investigation into the use of personal data in political campaigns.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced on 30 October that the tech giant had withdrawn its appeal against the “monetary penalty notice” and would accept the fine without admitting any liability.

Earlier in October, US presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren highlighted her own concerns over Facebook’s political advertising policy by paying for a series of adverts which included false claims about Zuckerberg.

The adverts, which successfully appeared on the social network, claimed the Facebook founder had endorsed US President Donald Trump for re-election next year, before suggesting they had given politicians “free rein to lie” on the platform.

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