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Facebook is reportedly planning changes to how it handles political speech


Facebook has a mostly hands-off approach to political speech.


Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook is reportedly planning changes to how it handles speech from politicians after an oversight board reviewed the social network’s indefinite suspension of former US President Donald Trump.  

The company will no longer presume that a politicians’ post is automatically newsworthy and should be left up by default even if it violates the social network’s rules, The Verge, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported on Thursday. Since  at least 2016, Facebook has left up posts from politicians that violate its rules if it believes the public interest outweighs the risk of harm. In 2019, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg said Facebook “will treat speech from politicians as newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard.”

The social network is reportedly changing that stance though there could still be cases when the company leaves a politician’s post out of public interest even if it violates the rules. In those cases, Facebook will disclose that the post is newsworthy despite the violations, a change in practice that CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced last year. 

The expected changes follow Facebook’s content oversight board upholding the social network’s decision to suspend Trump following the deadly US Capitol Hill riots because of concerns his comments could incite violence. But the board, which is funded by Facebook, also said the social network’s rules don’t include an “indefinite” suspension as a penalty. The board also said “the same rules should apply to all users” though “context matters when assessing the probability and imminence of harm.”

Facebook has a mostly-hands off approach to political speech, exempting politicians from the fact checking other content on the site can get. Politicians will still be exempt from fact-checking, according to The Verge

Facebook also plans to let users know when they’ve received a strike for violating its rules, a penalty that could lead to suspension. The company could announce the changes as soon as Friday, according to the reports.

The social network has rules against bullying, hate speech and other offensive content.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment.



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