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Facebook’s role in politics

Joan Solsman and Queenie Wong

If all Facebook cared about was the money it makes from political advertising, the company wouldn’t be doing it, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Tuesday.

  The social networking giant continues to answer questions about its decision to run political ads, including those with misleading information, without fact checking them. Instead, Facebook believes political ads are an important part of discourse.

  “It’s not for the money, let’s start there. This is a very small part of our; and it is very controversial. We’re not doing this for the money. We take political ads because we really believe they are part of political discourse. If you look at this over time, the people who have the most benefited from being able to run ads are people who are not covered by the media so they can’t get their message out,” she said.

  Sandberg’s comments come as Facebook fends off mounting criticism of its practices. Politicians have complained the social network has too much power to shape social and political discourse. Facebook also reels from concerns it isn’t protecting user privacy, an issue that has already led to an unprecedented $5 billion fine.

  Sandberg pushed back on the perception that Facebook was designed as an echo chamber to reinforce an individual user’s worldview. She said 26% of the news that a user sees on the platform “will be from another point of view” on average. “It is unequivocally true that Facebook usage and uses of social media show you broader points of view, not narrower points of view,” she said.

  Sandberg joined the social network in 2008, helping create its multi-billion dollar advertising business. At the same time, she has used her platform to champion women’s issues, becoming a feminist icon after the 2013 release of the book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

  Her leadership, though, was criticized after a series of Facebook scandals that followed the 2016 US presidential election and revelations that Russian trolls used the social network to sow discord to interfere in that vote

  Facebook’s woes have continued to pile up since 2016. Democrats and civil rights activists say the company is harming democracy by allowing politicians to lie in ads. The company’s efforts to launch a new cryptocurrency called Libra next year is drawing scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators.

  New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday said in total 47 attorneys general have joined the investigation of Facebook on antitrust grounds. The probe, which was announced in September, focuses on Facebook’s dominance and potential anticompetitive conduct stemming from that position. CNet

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