Opinion | Should Facebook Allow False Political Ads? – The New York Times

Opinion | Should Facebook Allow False Political Ads? – The New York Times

Personal Facebook communications are one thing; political ads are quite another. It is well known that even the First Amendment doesn’t protect falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. The Facebook content that Mr. Zuckerberg is trying to defend can be just as dangerous.

Cathy N. Goldstein
New York

To the Editor:

Re “Dissent Erupts at Facebook” (Business Day, Oct. 29), about a letter sent by Facebook employees to Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, objecting to management’s decision to allow politicians to post any ads on the site, even false ones:

Here’s a suggestion for a possible middle ground:

Publishing a disclaimer with political ads could warn readers that the ad might not be accurate. Political ads would be labeled “paid political advertising” and say, “Facebook does not censor political advertising, so the content might, or might not, be accurate.”

Marvin Diamond
Evanston, Ill.

To the Editor:

“Dissent Erupts at Facebook” highlights a dilemma confronting Facebook. There are substantial reasons, including the principle of free speech, to let politicians post any claims they want, even false ones, in ads on the site. On the other hand, dissemination of false information, particularly on a prominent and influential site, can be very harmful.

One possible response to this problem is to let politicians post any claims they want in ads on the site, but to have refutations by Facebook of false or misleading statements displayed prominently with these ads. These refutations should include specific references to relevant sources of information, when appropriate. When this is to be done, the advertiser should be informed. In some such cases, the advertisement may be withdrawn or altered, but Facebook will not be responsible for making this decision.

Peter B. Andrews
Pittsburgh

To the Editor:

An alternative to making Facebook the censor of lies published on its site is to de-anonymize postings everywhere on the web. Let readers see the “who” behind everything and judge truth for themselves. Such identification should be meaningful, including name and geographic location of the poster.

Anonymous lies, spam and malicious phishing are not necessary evils inherent in the internet. Anonymity is not essential to the preservation of speech free from governmental interference. Protecting the identity of sources to prevent governmental retribution is easily distinguishable from a guarantee of anonymity for all speech.

The technology for identifying internet users is available. The World Wide Web Consortium could implement this without any national government’s action. Consider fixing the whole system along with Facebook.

This content was originally published here.

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