Facebook plans to end pragmatic approach to politicians’ posts

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook plans to announce Friday that it will no longer keep posts by politicians on its site by default if their speech breaks its rules, two people with knowledge of the company’s plans said, reversing it. That it has allowed posts from political figures on social networks to remain untouched.

Former President Donald J. The change, linked to Facebook’s decision to ban Trump from its site, is a policy backlash. Introduced less than two years ago, when the company said that the speech of politicians was new and should not be polished.

Under the change, the positions of politicians will no longer be considered new, people with knowledge of the plans said on condition of anonymity. Politicians will be subject to Facebook’s content guidelines that prohibit harassment, discrimination or other harmful speech, he said.

If Facebook decides that politicians’ speech is newsworthy, it may be exempted from being pulled down under the standard used by the company. At least 2016. since from. Starting Friday, people with knowledge of the plans said, Facebook will disclose when it has invoked a news eligibility clause on posts that break the rule.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone declined to comment. ledge Reported First on the change of Facebook.

This change is because Facebook leaders had earlier vowed not to interfere in political speech. Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive Officer, said: 2019 Speech at Georgetown University That the company would not be an arbiter of speech “because I believe we should stand up for free expression.” Facebook’s head of public affairs, Nick Clegg, also said that all speeches by politicians on the platform “should, as a general rule, be seen and heard”.

Yet Facebook has faced backlash against that stance by lawmakers, civil rights activists, and even its own employees, especially when Mr Trump used social media to rally the crowd that ended the storm On January 6, a day after the US Capitol riots, Facebook said it would block Mr Trump Because the risks of allowing him to use the platform were too high.

Since then, Mr Trump’s aides and supporters have challenged the company, saying Facebook engages in censorship and has too much power over who can say what online. To defuse the situation, the social network sent its decision to block Trump to a company-appointed oversight board for review. Last month, board Mr Trump’s ban upheld But at the same time the matter was sent back to the company.

The board said Mr Trump’s indefinite suspension was “not justified” because it was not a penalty defined in Facebook’s policies and that the company should apply standard penalties such as a time-bound suspension or permanent ban. The board also said Facebook should respond to its recommendations by Friday on how to handle potentially dangerous posts from world leaders.

Around the world, political leaders have tried to undermine Facebook’s power over online speech, using social media to advance their own agendas. Russia, India And other countries have recently ordered Facebook to remove posts, even as some of their own politicians have tried to influence citizens with Facebook posts.

in the United States, Florida became the first state last month To regulate how companies like Facebook handle online speech, by imposing fines on companies that permanently ban political candidates in the state.

Other social media companies have also made exceptions for world leaders. Twitter for years granted additional leeway to politicians who violated its rules, allowing their posts to remain on its platform because it said the information was in the public interest.

In 2019, Twitter said it would continue to allow world leaders to post disturbing or abusive messages, but would hide them behind warning label. Last year, Twitter began to enforce its rules more tightly, removing several tweets from world leaders such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.

On Friday, Facebook plans to shed more light on how to punish rule breakers and major outlets who post offensive content on the social network, people with knowledge of the plans said. This will include a full explanation of its “strike” process, the way the company reconciles breaches by accounts or pages that break its rules.

Facebook has been criticized for a lack of transparency in implementing the strikes and uneven enforcement of its rules, particularly against the high-profile accounts of conservatives. interior have questioned Were some of Facebook’s policy executives too liberal on right-wing figures who regularly violated content policy.

kate conger Contributed reporting.

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