OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Today when I woke up I found a note taped to my mirror. It reads in part:
Sen. Warren is complaining that Facebook will get Pres. Trump reelected b/c Zuckerberg said in a speech that they don’t fact check paid ads, that FB believes it’s instructive to hear what candidates say — and how they say it.
I can’t believe Sen. Warren wants Dem ads fact checked. Sounds like she didn’t think this through before popping off — LOL.
I want to thank her for contacting the official Chicktern tip line and notifying me of this story, because ohhhh boy, do I have some things to say.
Liz’s comments were made on Twitter, as is the case with most political discourse in 2019 apparently.
Facebook had a policy that didn't permit misinformation in any ads. Facebook built relationships with independent fact-checkers, so they weren't the sole deciders of what was or wasn't a lie. But Facebook undermined those relationships and excluded political ads from that policy.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 18, 2019
Facebook is actively helping Trump spread lies and misinformation. Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once. They might do it again—and profit off of it.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 18, 2019
Okay, Liz. You’re right. Fact checking is important. Let’s start with these tweets.
Facebook fact checked its ads and posts via a partnership with Snopes, who backed out of it earlier this year. You remember Snopes, right? The one that’s clearly biased not only against conservatives, but also conservative-leaning satire? The fact that Snopes is no longer “fact-checking” Facebook posts is a win for transparency, if only because there’s once again an equal amount of BS from conservative and liberal sources. Oh, and saying Facebook “undermined” their relationships just isn’t accurate. It takes two to tango, as they say.
Warren goes on to point out the difference between President Trump posting misinformation for his followers to see and Trump posting misinformation in ads. She seems to suggest that she’s totally fine with the former; it’s only the latter that gets her goat. Even if she believes that now (which I doubt she sincerely does), why should any of us believe for even a second that unsponsored posts won’t receive the same scrutiny once she gets her way about ads?
On the same note, why is it only wrong for Facebook to make money off of Trump’s ads? Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and other Democrats are also giving them money to run their own ads. Why is that acceptable?
That question is rhetorical, because I know the answer would be, “Because our ads tell the truth!” To which I say any media showing Elizabeth Warren with a beer is violent and offensive and has no business being forced down MY throat. You don’t see me making a fuss over it, though, because I know how to think critically (and, more importantly, block ads).
This brings us to the crux of the issue. In the speech that Warren references, Zuckerberg defended his position:
“People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society,” Mr. Zuckerberg, 35, said.
He added that despite the messiness of free speech, “the long journey towards greater progress requires confronting ideas that challenge us.”
“I’m here today because I believe we must continue to stand for free expression,” he said.
In a statement released last month about its fact-checking policy as it relates to political speech, Facebook explained,
We rely on third-party fact-checkers to help reduce the spread of false news and other types of viral misinformation, like memes or manipulated photos and videos. We don’t believe, however, that it’s an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny. That’s why Facebook exempts politicians from our third-party fact-checking program.
Now believe me, no one will be more shocked than I am by this, but I agree with Zuckerberg. Politicians are who we are choosing, by democratic processes, to make decisions in our own best interests. We should know exactly whom we’re electing. We cannot be disengaged from their speech, ESPECIALLY speech that they’ve specifically crafted for social media and mass communication. In 2019, this is how we find out who these candidates are.
Zuckerberg seems to believe, as do I, that we as citizens have not only the right, but the responsibility to take in what words we’re given and pass our own judgments. If we as a country make bad judgments, we get a bad leader, and it’s the leader we deserve for failing to make good judgments. The onus is on us to consider what our politicians have to say and determine what it means to us. I know there’s people out there saying, “But politicians shouldn’t be allowed to lie!”, and while I agree in principle, it’s patently obvious that we are WELL past that.
Elizabeth Warren, however, disagrees. She believes someone else needs to be responsible for deciding the value, importance, relevance, and truthfulness of what our elected (or aspiring) leaders have to say. Who is this “someone else,” you ask? Someone who agrees with her. Warren doesn’t want you to think independently. She wants to force you to think like her by blocking and removing any speech that doesn’t match up with what she wants you to hear. She doesn’t trust us to be clever enough to understand what’s going on in the world, because we might come to a conclusion different from her own. What kind of government does that sound like to you: one of the people, by the people, and for the people, or a dictatorship?
Maybe it’s just my inner libertarian/constitutionalist speaking, but to me, this is the most important and most telling topic for politicians to address. When these presidential hopefuls speak about information, about free speech, about censorship, they’re saying one of two things: Either they are so confident in their positions and the critical thinking abilities of their constituents that they don’t care what kind of “fake news” we have access to, or they suspect that access to all the speech the world has to offer will lead you to conclusions other than what they require you to have in order for them to succeed. I know what kind of person I want to lead the country.