Facebook has said it won't
delete politicians' posts on its site, even if the content of those posts break
Speaking at The Atlantic Festival in Washington DC on
Tuesday, Facebook's most senior spokesman Nick Clegg talked through the steps
that Facebook is taking to prepare for upcoming political elections and its
attitude toward political speech on the platform. Clegg was once a senior
politician himself, as the former leader of the Liberal Democrat party in the
UK and as the country's deputy prime minister.
His speech was shared in a blog
Clegg explained that while Facebook will continue to crack down on fake
accounts and work to reduce the spread of false news, politicians' speech and
political debates will be exempt from fact-checking and will be allowed on the
platform even if it breaks Facebook's rules.
"Freedom of expression is an absolute founding
principle for Facebook," Clegg said. "Since day one, giving people a
voice to express themselves has been at the heart of everything we do. We are
champions of free speech and defend it in the face of attempts to restrict it.
Censoring or stifling political discourse would be at odds with what we are
The rules potentially mean politicians will be free to
spread misinformation and even hate speech. Facebook said it would demote posts
if politicians share news that has already been debunked, but that it wouldn't
actively fact-check what politicians post.
Alex Newhouse, an extremism researcher at the Middlebury
Institute of International Studies, wrote on Twitter:
"To give politicians essentially free reign to lie, gaslight, and spread
hate on the largest social platform on the planet isn't just misguided, it's
actively dangerous, violent, and anti-society."
But others argued that Facebook, a private company, shouldn't make decisions
about what political speech is acceptable or not.
Clegg said that Facebook would intervene "where
speech endangers people", and that it still regulated what is posted in political
Still, it isn't clear how Facebook is defining
"politician" and whether that simply means elected official, or alsoincludes political candidates. For example, Facebook has already
banned right-wing activist Tommy Robinson from its services for
Islamaphobia. He subsequently ran to be a member for European Parliament.