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Facebook won’t fact-check Boris’s posts in the 2019 UK Election

Facebook has confirmed that it won’t fact-check any political adverts placed by candidates during the run up to the UK’s general election on the 12th of December. 

The social network’s policy on vetting political adverts was announced by Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader, now vice president of global affairs and communications for Facebook, back in September.

Facebook’s policy on fact-checking means that adverts created by campaign groups like People’s Vote or Leave.EU, but individuals standing for election won’t be subject to the same level of scrutiny, according to a Facebook spokesperson talking to CNN Business.

The policy was criticised by former United States vice president and Democrat hopeful Joe Biden, who accused Facebook of running adverts that no other network would carry. Now the social media platform has confirmed that these rules apply in the UK as well.

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The news comes in the wake of Facebook pulling a series of political adverts placed by the UK government.

The adverts, targeted at voters in areas identified as being key for prime minister Boris Johnson to secure an election win, were not misleading themselves, but they were not overtly labelled as paid political adverts.

HuffPost UK quotes a Facebook spokesperson saying: “The adverts run by the ‘My Town Page’ were not correctly labelled as being about social issues.

“Ads about social issues, elections or politics that appear on our platforms should include a disclaimer provided by advertisers.”

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In this case, the ‘advertiser’ was MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government), and the ads referred to the £3.6bn Towns Fund announced by the prime minister in September.

The ads were published on a page for a government campaign called ‘My Town’, the ads trumpet £25m of investment for each individual area, and, concidentally, happened to be published the day Johnson secured backing for his snap election.

In a marked contrast to Facebook, Twitter this week announced that it will ban all political adverts from the 22nd of November onwards, ahead of the UK’s snap election. CEO Jack Dorsey explained why Twitter was canning all political adverts in a lengthy thread.

“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions,” Dorsey said.

“We considered stopping only candidate ads, but issue ads present a way to circumvent. Additionally, it isn’t fair for everyone but candidates to buy ads for issues they want to push. So we’re stopping these too.”

While Facebook would prefer political speech to be debated and scrutinised in public, someone with knowledge of Facebook’s policies was able to tell Trusted Reviews that there are some circumstances where the social network would take action.

These include politicians sharing previously debunked content including links, videos and photos, Facebook plans to demote, along with any content that may dissuade people from voting or misrepresent key facts.

Last week, Facebook’s vice president of policy solutions Richard Allan mentioned plans for a closer monitoring during election time in the Telegraph:

“…once a UK election is underway we will set up a dedicated operations centre to bring together the teams who monitor activity across our platforms. This will be an added layer of defence, helping us to more quickly remove content that breaks our rules and respond to any emerging threats or challenges.”

Generally though, it is Facebook’s policy to allow the public and the media to debate political content, and not act as the social media police.

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