As Facebook executives themselves admit, a disinformation campaign flourished on the social media platform ahead of the 2016 presidential campaign, with abundant lies from trolls both foreign and domestic

Some of the lies were planted by Russians and other foreign interests working to sway voters on behalf of Donald Trump in battleground states. Whether or not you believe that Trump colluded with Russia to win the election, there is no denying that the effort was wildly successful, tilting Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania into Trump’s column on election day and giving him the White House. That despite his losing the popular vote.

Facebook has spent the past three years apologizing for failing to prevent those lies from reaching the intended audiences and handing Trump the election. And they admit it could happen again in 2020.

Facebook’s competitors in the social media space announced changes to ensure they were not guilty of the same mistakes Facebook made in 2016. Google last year restricted targeted political advertising, while Twitter banned all political advertising.

Not Facebook.

Despite having earned the villain’s label as a result of what happened in 2016, Facebook will continue to allow politicians or their proxies to lie to us, refusing to fact-check political advertising. In addition, Facebook will still let politicians upload voter files and target those voters through Facebook’s advertising tools.

In doing so, Facebook — which is how more than half the US population receives the news that Facebook does not create but distributes and profits from — chose to ignore the advice of employees and critics alike that it do something about the digital landscape it helped create.

And more than three in five adults think it’s a problem that Facebook and the other social media companies get to decide what we see without a commitment to ensuring that it’s true.

“They [Facebook] don’t want to acknowledge that something they’ve created is contributing to the decline of our democracy, but it is,” Ellen L. Weintraub, who serves on the Federal Elections Commission, told The New York Times.

We know the power of these social media platforms to connect us — for good or ill. As customers, we must demand they behave responsibly in a manner that Facebook remains unwilling to act.

— BOB UNGER

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Bob Unger  508-542-1252
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Barbara LeBlanc  603-486-8760
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