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End the duopoly

Facebook’s Zuckerberg holds line on political ads, but microtargeting could change

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has no intention of changing the company’s policy on political ads, which means the social network will not ban them or fact-check them, three high-ranking sources at Facebook told NBC News.

But Zuckerberg remains open to ideas about how to curb the spread of false ads, including limiting the ability of candidates to target narrow groups of users, an issue that has been a key sticking point for the Federal Election Commission, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the matter publicly.

Zuckerberg’s refusal to buckle to public pressure over Facebook’s handling of political advertising has fueled a wide-ranging debate about the role social media firms play in the spread of misinformation. The most extreme response came from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who last week announced that his company would ban political ads entirely because, he said, “political message reach should be earned, not bought.”

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Facebook and Zuckerberg have argued that political ads allow lesser-known candidates to gain attention and build followings that bigger candidates already have.

“From a business perspective, the controversy certainly isn’t worth the small part of our business they make up,” Zuckerberg said in a recent speech at Georgetown University. “But political ads are an important part of voice, especially for local candidates, up-and-coming challengers, and advocacy groups that may not get much media attention otherwise.”

Many politicians, civil rights groups and consumer advocacy organizations have called on Facebook to fact-check candidate ads and remove any that contain falsehoods. Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap, which runs Snapchat, has taken this approach. The company has also banned some ads.

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