“We decided to see just how far it goes,” Ms. Warren said of Facebook’s openness to leaving up false political ads.
Civil rights groups said they were stunned by how hands-off Facebook was being on political speech. Giving politicians free rein to post any material — even lies — potentially sets up the social network for more disinformation efforts ahead of the 2020 election, they said.
Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition representing 220 civil rights groups, said she spoke to Mr. Zuckerberg last week to express alarm about the policy. She said he told her the public could make its own determinations about false statements and racially divisive content from politicians.
“Mark Zuckerberg is co-opting civil rights history to try to justify Facebook’s policies that do long-term damage to our democracy,” Ms. Gupta said. “The company is in denial about what’s happening.”
Neil Chilson, a senior research fellow at Stand Together, an organization within the Koch network, a conservative policy group, said Facebook’s free speech position was “a very reasonable policy choice.” When Mr. Trump speaks, reporters then fact-check what he says, showing “that the cure to a politician’s misstatement is more speech, not to shut it down,” Mr. Chilson said.
Mr. Zuckerberg decided in recent days to speak at Georgetown University as the debate over Facebook’s position on political discourse became louder. On Wednesday, he posted on Facebook that he was writing a speech that was “the most comprehensive take I’ve written about my views, why I believe voice is important.”
He will continue his public offensive on Friday, when an interview with Dana Perino of Fox News is scheduled to air. Next week, he will be in Washington for a hearing on the company’s cryptocurrency project, called Libra. It will be his second time testifying in front of Congress after April 2018, when he answered lawmakers’ questions on Facebook’s treatment of user data.