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Published 17 October 2019

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, defend the company's policy to allow politicians to publicize ads containing misrepresentations and lies on the social media platform. 

Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, defended on Thursday the company's policy to allow politicians to peddle ads containing misrepresentations and lies on the influential social media network, saying that these tensions are something with which "we have to live."

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“People worry, and I worry deeply, too, about an erosion of truth,” Zuckerberg told The Washington Post ahead of a speech Thursday at Georgetown University. “At the same time, I don’t think people want to live in a world where you can only say things that tech companies decide are 100 percent true. And I think that those tensions are something we have to live with,” said the billionare and Facebook founder.

During his speech at Georgetown, he insisted that in a democracy, "people should decide what is credible, not technology companies," although he admitted that there are exceptions: "We do not allow content that incites violence or an imminent risk of harm," he added.

"Given the sensitivity around political announcements, I have considered whether we should stop allowing them altogether," Zuckerberg said, and argued that banning electoral propaganda favors those who already hold public office or candidates seeking re-election.

"Even if we wanted to ban political ads, it is not clear where we should draw the limit. There are many more announcements on issues than there are directly about elections," said the businessman, who argued that "there are problems anyway if you cut this," so he considered that social media should "err on the side of greater expression."

The remarks highlight the social network's controversial approach to political speech as it tries to balance free speech and combating misinformation during elections. They could also escalate tensions between Facebook and politicians as the 2020 campaign season heats up.

In recent weeks, Zuckerberg’s approach to political speech has been harshly criticized primarily by Democrats, generating tensions in particular with Facebook’s decision to allow an ad from President Trump’s 2020 campaign that included falsehoods about former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) responded to Facebook’s decision by running her own campaign ad, satirically stating that Zuckerberg supports Trump for reelection. 

Warren, who admitted in the announcement that this claim was not true, has strongly criticized the monopoly of technology companies and, along with other Democrats seeking the White House in 2020, argued that Facebook is too big, powerful and problematic and should be regulated or broken apart.

The biggest controversy that Facebook has faced in recent years occurred in March 2018 when it was learned that the British consultant Cambridge Analytica used an application to collect millions of data from Internet users without their consent and for political purposes.

The company used Facebook data to develop psychological profiles of voters that were allegedly sold to the campaign of now President Trump during the 2016 elections, among others.

The uproar caused by that revelation led the California-based company to open an investigation into how users use the applications with which Facebook works or maintains agreements that led to the suspension of tens of thousands of applications that did not respect its rules of use. 

The 2020 elections lends new urgency to Facebook’s issues, given what happened in 2016. Experts say the forms of manipulation and deception have evolved since then, including the arrival of deepfakes, or videos that convincingly distort what a subject is doing or saying using artificial intelligence.

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