A false ad claiming Republicans back the Green New Deal tests Facebook's policy on lies
Posted October 26, 2019 6:41 p.m. EDT
CNN — A left-leaning PAC ran a Facebook ad falsely claiming that Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham endorsed the Green New Deal. The ad came after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg earlier this week about the company's policy of allowing politicians to run ads on the platform that are false.
"Would I be able to run advertisements on Facebook targeting Republicans in primaries saying they voted for the Green New Deal," Rep. Ocasio-Cortez asked Zuckerberg at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Wednesday. Adding, "I mean if you're not fact-checking political advertisements, I'm just trying to understand the bounds here, what's fair game?"
Ocasio-Cortez was criticizing Facebook's policy of allowing politicians, including President Donald Trump, to run false ads on its platform. The policy has prompted presidential hopefuls, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to also criticize the company.
On Thursday, a PAC named "The Really Online Lefty League" posted a false ad that used edited video to make it appear like Graham had endorsed the Green New Deal.
The ad ran successfully on Facebook until Saturday after it was flagged as false by a fact-checking group hired by the social media giant. Facebook then canceled the ad but allowed the false video to stay on the platform. Users will be alerted before sharing the video that it has been flagged by fact-checkers and Facebook says it will downrank the video, meaning it will be seen in less people's feeds.
Facebook does not pro-actively fact-check political ads, which meant in this case the ad was able to run for more than a day before it was flagged and removed.
However, Facebook confirmed to CNN on Saturday, if Ocasio-Cortez had run the same ad it would not be removed because fact-checking does not extend to politicians.
"The whole thing here is that Facebook doesn't know what it is doing, and neither does Congress," Adriel Hampton, treasurer of "The Really Online Left League," the PAC that ran the false ad, told CNN on Saturday.
Hampton decided to run the ad after Ocasio-Cortez's exchange with Zuckerberg.
"I honestly expected that after the news attention to that particular exchange on the Hill, it wouldn't be approved. But Facebook really isn't doing anything proactive about misinformation on their platform," he said.