Facebook doesn't fact check what politicians say on the social media site, even if the statements are false, according to Nick Clegg, the vice president of global affairs and communications for the company.
In a speech given last week at the Atlantic Festival in Washington, D.C., Clegg said that Facebook has been exempting politicians' social media posts from its fact checking program for more than a year. Facebook relies on third-party fact checkers to help reduce the spread of false news and other types of misinformation, like memes and manipulated photos and videos.
"We have a responsibility to protect the platform from outside interference, and to make sure that when people pay us for political ads we make it as transparent as possible," Clegg said during his speech. "But it is not our role to intervene when politicians speak. That’s why I want to be really clear today — we do not submit speech by politicians to our independent fact-checkers, and we generally allow it on the platform even when it would otherwise breach our normal content rules."
According to a news release from the company following the speech, Facebook does not want to "referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny."
However, this is not carte blanche for politicians to spread misinformation, Facebook said.
"This means that we will not send organic content or ads from politicians to our third-party fact-checking partners for review," the release stated. "However, when a politician shares previously debunked content including links, videos and photos, we plan to demote that content, display related information from fact-checkers, and reject its inclusion in advertisements."
Clegg also pointed out that Facebook has had a newsworthiness exemption since 2016.
"This means that if someone makes a statement or shares a post which breaks our community standards we will still allow it on our platform if we believe the public interest in seeing it outweighs the risk of harm," Clegg said in a news release. "Today, I announced that from now on we will treat speech from politicians as newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard."