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Inside Facebook’s year of reckoning on political ads

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Inside Facebook’s year of reckoning on political ads

As public complaints mounted that Facebook was refusing to police dangerously deceptive U.S. political ads, the company stuck for nearly a year to a hard line CEO Mark Zuckerberg had drawn: “I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy.”

This month has been an about-face: First, Facebook announced that it is banning new political ads in the week before Election Day to prevent last-minute attempts to deceive voters. Then this week the company took it further, saying it will reject ads that claim victory prematurely as worries rise that President Donald Trump might do just that.

The path was neither direct nor swift. Those involved in the discussions over political ads say Facebook officials spent nearly a year wavering between its founder’s declarations on free expression and a desire to avoid becoming a presidential-election villain yet again.

A look into that year of deliberations reveals a company holding back from big public moves while it searched for a solution that would satisfy both its critics and its CEO — until a sense of emergency kicked in.

“It’s insanely close to Election Day for Facebook to make decisions like this,” said Mark Jablonowski, managing […]

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