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Facebook To Promote Political Speech If It Is In Public Interest

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Facebook said it will treat speech from politicians as newsworthy and that such posts, even if they break its community standards, will be allowed on the platform if it believes "the public interest in seeing it outweighs the risk of harm."

Speaking at the Atlantic Festival in Washington DC, Nick Clegg, Facebook's Vice President of global affairs, set out the measures that the social media giant is taking to prevent outside interference in elections and Facebook's attitude towards political speech on the platform.

However, in keeping with the company's policy on content for which it receives payment, this "newsworthiness exemption" will not apply to advertisements. "If someone chooses to post an ad on Facebook, they must still fall within our Community Standards and our advertising policies," he told the gathering.

Clegg said that while determining newsworthiness, Facebook will consider factors such as country-specific circumstances, like whether there is an election underway or the country is at war; the nature of the speech, including whether it relates to governance or politics; and the political structure of the country, including whether the country has a free press.

If the company is convinced that a content has the potential to incite violence, and pose a safety risk, it will not promote such content.

Facebook also made it clear that its policy of relying on third-party fact-checkers to help reduce the spread of false news and other types of viral misinformation will not be applicable to politicians.

"We don't believe, however, that it's an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician's speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny."

Clegg admitted that Facebook learned the lessons from mistakes it made in 2016, when Russia tried to use Facebook to interfere with the US election by spreading division and misinformation.

He said Facebook cracked down on fake accounts, preventing millions from being created every day; brought in independent fact-checkers to verify content; and invested hugely in artificial intelligence systems to take down harmful content.

Last year, a Stanford report found that interactions with fake news on Facebook was down by two-thirds since 2016, Cleg said.

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