In an effort to prevent so-called “Russian interference” in the upcoming 2018 mid-term and 2020 presidential elections, Facebook has instituted new policies aimed at people and organizations that it deems to be “inauthentic” or “bad actors”.
Conservatives have criticized Facebook’s new rules, accusing the company of stifling free speech online in an attempt to help the Democratic party. Surprisingly, left-leaning individuals and organizations are joining in, noting that Facebook’s recent new rules and actions are hurting them as well.
One particular policy that is being heavily criticized by the left is Facebook’s new rule stating that companies or individuals engaged in political advertising must provide a social security number, a federal ID and residential address. The rule is specifically designed to ensure that non-American entities don’t purchase political ads on Facebook’s platform; however, the social media giant’s definition of “political advertising” is so broad that is targets a wide range of ads.
In fact, any advertisement that contains words such as “civil rights”, “economy” and “values” is being blocked by the platform unless the person putting up the ads provides the required information. This means that entities from both sides of the political spectrum must submit to Facebook’s new, draconian guidelines to put up ads.
Immigration advocates are up in arms over the rule as it prevents undocumented immigrations from freely sharing their opinions online via Facebook advertising, while other activists report that many people who don’t have a government-issued photo ID card would likewise be unable to put up advertising. If these arguments sound familiar, it’s because they are often heard when conservative organizations and state governments push for rules requiring voters to bring a photo ID in order to vote.
Another problem for left-leaning organizations is that Facebook has identified what it calls “inauthentic behavior” associated with a number of left-leaning Facebook pages and Instagram accounts. This led Facebook to pull an event page related to a DC countermarch to a demonstration organized by the same group that organized the now-infamous Charlottesville march last year. The countermarch page, which turned out to be authentic, is linked to Black Lives Matter DC, which has complained that Facebook’s decision to pull its page damaged BLM DC’s credibility. Even so, Facebook has noted that the countermarch page and other left-leaning pages that the platform has pulled were linked to Russia by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Lawmakers appear to have found evidence that “Russian actors” are attempting to use social media accounts affiliated with the political left to spread misinformation. Even the #AbolishICE social media campaign seems to have been affected by foreign influences. While the news is sure to stump those who fully believe that Russian interference only benefited the Trump campaign back in 2016, it should not surprise those who have paid close attention to the entire Russiagate narrative. As Facebook Vice President Rob Goldman ads made clear earlier this year, most Russian ad spending occurred after the 2016 presidential election. What is more, the ads promoted both conservative and left-leaning causes in what seems to be an attempt to sow division rather than back a particular candidate or party.
While Facebook has faced a great deal of anger over the fact that its platform may have published ads paid for by foreign entities, the social network’s attempts to crack down on political ad purchases by non-American citizens and organizations seems to be backfiring as both liberals and conservatives are naturally enraged. Left-leaning organizations are rightly pointing out that Facebook’s new rules prevent legitimate, non-political advertising. However, these same organizations fail to grasp or accept that the only real solution to the problem is for Facebook to stop trying to regulate free speech in the first place.
Ads alone should not sway the electoral process. The internet provides a wealth of information on just about any topic imaginable, and it is not hard for informed voters to check out political advertisements and news articles to determine which are accurate and which are not.
~ Liberty Planet