Facebook finally starts labeling problematic posts from politicians

In a long post today, and following weeks of controversy and advertiser boycott threats, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has published a long post detailing some content policies coming to the platform, including the promise that there are “no exceptions for politicians.” Among other things, Zuckerberg said the social media platform will start labeling problematic ‘newsworthy’ content from political figures.

In case you missed the drama, here’s a quick synopsis: Twitter began fact-checking Donald Trump’s tweets in late May, taking the step many had called for in labeling one ‘misleading’ because of its content. This, as expected, spurred a tantrum from the president, as well as rabid criticism from many of his followers, but was ultimately welcomed by those who were concerned about Trump’s problematic use of the platform to spread false information.

Very soon after this, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with Fox News that his company has ‘a different policy than Twitter on this’ and that he ‘strongly’ believes the platform ‘shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say. I think in general private companies, or especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.’

This statement didn’t go over well, including with Dorsey, who took to Twitter with his own response to Zuckerberg’s statement:

Facebook has been heavily criticized for allowing politicians’ posts to evade fact-checking, something Zuckerberg has directly addressed in a long post on Friday. The most relevant part of Zuckerberg’s statement for this topic is the following:

A handful of times a year, we leave up content that would otherwise violate our policies if the public interest value outweighs the risk of harm. Often, seeing speech from politicians is in the public interest, and in the same way that news outlets will report what a politician says, we think people should generally be able to see it for themselves on our platforms.

We will soon start labeling some of the content we leave up because it is deemed newsworthy, so people can know when this is the case. We’ll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content, because this is an important part of how we discuss what’s acceptable in our society — but we’ll add a prompt to tell people that the content they’re sharing may violate our policies.

To clarify one point: there is no newsworthiness exemption to content that incites violence or suppresses voting. Even if a politician or government official says it, if we determine that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we will take that content down. Similarly, there are no exceptions for politicians in any of the policies I’m announcing here today.

Under this policy, Facebook has made it clear that it won’t be removing posts from politicians but will take the step of labeling content when necessary to help inform users about the nature of the posts. Zuckerberg didn’t reveal what these labels will look like, nor did he say how far politicians can push their luck before the social media company will outright remove their content.

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