It has never been a better time to quit Facebook, after the company recently revealed a policy that formalized the ability of politicians to lie in ads on the platform. Techcrunch writer Josh Costine called the move a disgorgement of responsibility. The web publication has another piece by Costine, calling on Facebook, and other tech companies, to ban political ads altogether. The ban would hold until they can come up with a coherent policy that doesn’t erode democratic freedoms by inundating the populace with misinformation.
No one wants historically untrustworthy social networks becoming the honesty police, deciding what’s factual enough to fly. But the alternative of allowing deception to run rampant is unacceptable. Until voter-elected officials can implement reasonable policies to preserve truth in campaign ads, the tech giants should go a step further and refuse to run them.
The formalization of the policy accepting misinformation in ads came after the campaign of Joe Biden called on Facebook to remove ads promoting false claims about him that were made by the Trump campaign. Facebook refused to take the ads down, abdicating any responsibility for their veracity.
In response, the campaign of Elizabeth Warren posted an ad blatantly lying about Mark Zuckerberg endorsing Donald Trump. Costine writes, in the TechCrunch piece, that “It’s easy to imagine campaign ads escalating into an arms race of dishonesty.”
I’ve always stayed away from Facebook, watching from the sidelines as the company has made a series of bad decisions, every one seemingly worse than the previous. However, I did go back to Instagram a couple of years ago after quitting when they were originally purchased by Facebook. Now, I am now rethinking my relationship with that platform, especially after my recent push to consolidate my web presence at my own site. I am under no illusions that as many people would go to my personal site to see my photos as see them on Instagram, but more limited exposure seems a reasonable price to pay for principles. After all, I’m not selling anything.