Hundreds of Facebook workers are calling on the company to curb politicians' ability to use the company's targeting tools for political ads.
“It is common for political advertisers to upload voter rolls (which are publicly available in order to reach voters) and then use behavioral tracking tools (such as the FB pixel) and ad engagement to refine ads further,” more than 250 employees say in a letter sent to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “The risk with allowing this is that it’s hard for people in the electorate to participate in the 'public scrutiny' that we’re saying comes along with political speech.”
The letter, obtained by The New York Times, expresses concern over Facebook's decision to exempt political ads from fact-checking.
“We strongly object to this policy as it stands,” the letter states. “It doesn’t protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.”
Controversy over Facebook's treatment of political ads erupted earlier this month, when the company allowed President Donald Trump to run an attack ad implying that former Vice President Joe Biden pressured the Ukraine government to fire its chief prosecutor for personal reasons. The ad falsely suggests that Biden wanted the prosecutor fired because he was investigating an energy company with ties to Biden's son. The Obama administration actually wanted the prosecutor fired for failing to investigate corruption among Ukraine's politicians.
Zuckerberg defended the company's political ad policies in a speech delivered earlier this month at Georgetown.
“I know many people disagree, but, in general, I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy,” he said. “As a principle, in a democracy, I believe people should decide what is credible, not tech companies.”
But the employees who signed the letter say that Facebook's targeting options make it difficult for the public at large to examine claims in ads by politicians.
“These ads are often so micro-targeted that the conversations on our platforms are much more siloed than on other platforms,” the letter states.