King has been a vocal opponent of US President Donald Trump, whose posts put Facebook’s philosophy on political speech in the spotlight last autumn. Facebook declined to remove a Trump campaign ad containing falsehoods despite a request from Democratic presidential contender Joseph Biden, saying political ads are not subject to its usual fact-checking process created after the 2016 election.
Democratic lawmakers and other candidates who may face off against Trump in 2020 accused Facebook of giving the commander in chief a pass to peddle the “fake news” he so often complains about. Senator Elizabeth Warren used a pointed ad of her own to critique the policy, opening with: “Breaking news: Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook just endorsed Donald Trump for reelection.”
“You’re probably shocked, and you might be thinking, ‘How could this possibly be true?’ ” the ad read. “Well, it’s not. (Sorry.) But what Zuckerberg *has* done is given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform – and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters.”
Facebook has defended its actions as upholding freedom of expression, with chief executive Mark Zuckerberg arguing that his company should not try to referee politicians’ statements even as he frets about “an erosion of truth.”
“I don’t think people want to live in a world where you can only say things that tech companies decide are 100 per cent true,” Zuckerberg told The Washington Post in an interview last autumn. “And I think that those tensions are something we have to live with.”
Facebook has also struggled to reassure regulators as well as its more than 2 billion users that it is handling people’s data with care, especially after revelations that the data firm Cambridge Analytica harnessed millions of Facebook profiles for political advertising without individuals’ consent. That scandal prompted an outcry from lawmakers and the public – and newfound scrutiny that continued last year as Facebook announced it suspended tens of thousands of apps over concerns they misused people’s information.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
King is hardly the first prominent name to ditch Facebook. Celebrities ranging from singer Cher to actor Will Ferrell announced their exit as #DeleteFacebook trended in 2018 amid the fallout over the use of Facebook data by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. The sceptics also included people in the tech sphere, such as Brian Acton, a co-founder of the Facebook-acquired messaging platform WhatsApp.
Other popular figures have taken aim at Facebook more recently. Sacha Baron Cohen called massive online platforms “the greatest propaganda machine in history” in a November speech, praising Twitter and Google for taking steps to address false political ads while urging Facebook to change course.
Facebook will “even help you micro-target those lies to their users for maximum effect,” he said, suggesting the approach could have boosted Adolf Hitler if Facebook existed in the 1930s.
The Washington Post