Trump Run Leads to Big Shift on Facebook

Meta memo says 'long-standing policy' on politicians mandates Trump won't be fact-checked
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2022 9:05 AM CST
Facebook: We Won't Fact-Check Trump During His Run
Former President Donald Trump stands with former first lady Melania Trump after announcing a third run for president at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Yes, former President Trump is running for the Oval Office again. And no, Facebook won't be fact-checking what he says during that campaign, and perhaps afterward, if he gets into office. CNN got its hands on a memo issued Tuesday by Meta's "news integrity partnership" team to contracted third-party fact-checkers spelling out that, because the former president has officially declared his candidacy, he's off-limits for the labels they usually slap onto misinformation on the social media platform. The rule isn't a new one, and in fact applies to all politicians, though that exemption expires once someone leaves office or sees their campaign come to a close, per Insider. "Political speech is ineligible for fact-checking," the Tuesday memo reads. "This includes the words a politician says as well as photo, video, or other content that is clearly labeled as created by the politician or their campaign."

To clarify what it means by the "politician" label, the memo notes the term includes "candidates running for office, current office holders—and, by extension, many of their cabinet appointees—along with political parties and their leaders." Pages run by spokespersons or members of a politician's staff may still be fact-checked, per Meta's "Fact-Checking Policies" page. The page goes on to explain the reasoning behind this rule—namely, that the company holds a "fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, especially in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is the most scrutinized speech there is." It adds that citizens would lose access to what politicians are saying and not be able to hold them accountable as effectively if political speech were to be limited.

The hands-off rule doesn't apply to debunked content a politician shares that was created by a third party. In those cases, Meta notes, "we will demote that content, display a warning, and reject its inclusion in ads." A Meta spokesperson tells CNN: "A reiteration of our long-standing policy should not be news to anyone." At the moment, this development is moot personally for Trump, who has been suspended from Facebook and Instagram, another Meta-owned brand, since January 2021, after the attack on the US Capitol. But the Meta ban was put in place for only two years, which means Trump could be back on the platform this coming January if the company agrees to it. (More Facebook stories.)

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