Civil rights leaders are lobbying Mark Zuckerberg to change his mind about allowing lies in Facebook's political ads - and he might compromise

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Civil rights leaders are lobbying Mark Zuckerberg to change his mind about allowing lies in Facebook's political ads - and he might compromise

facebook ceo mark zuckerberg

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

  • Mark Zuckerberg held a dinner for civil rights leaders at his house on Monday night, the Washington Post reported.
  • A key topic of conversation was Facebook's recent decision to exempt political adverts from its fact-checking process, a decision that has been heavily criticised since it essentially lets politicians lie to voters in ads.
  • Some of the civil rights leaders present at the dinner, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, expressed cautious optimism in interview with the Washington Post.
  • NBC separately reported Wednesday that Mark Zuckerberg won't change his stance, but he's open to the idea of limiting microtargeting.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Civil rights leaders attended a dinner at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's house to try to convince him to reverse his stance on letting politicians lie on Facebook, the Washington Post reports.

Last month Facebook announced it would exempt political ads from fact-checking, essentially meaning politicians can lie to voters in ads.

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The decision led to an intense backlash externally and internally, with 250 Facebook employees signing a letter saying it would "weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy." Facebook's former head of global elections integrity operations also laid into the company over the decision in a blistering op-ed earlier this week.

Roughly 10 representatives from civil rights groups dined at Zuckerberg's house on Monday night according to the Post, along with Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg and head of comms Nick Clegg. The meal lasted two hours and reportedly included steak, scallops, and carrots.

The activists present flagged concerns that unchecked political ads could be abused and lead to voter suppression. President of the National Action Network Rev. Al Sharpton told the Post that Zuckerberg had implied the no fact-checking on political ads was an "evolving kind of policy."

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"I am now hopeful about the fact that he was open to the discussion and seemed to be going through a process of trying to get it right," he said."I'm not where we want to be, but better than where we were," he added.

Al Sharpton

REUTERS/Allison Shelley

Rev. Al Sharpton was in attendance at the dinner.

Not all the guests came away with the same optimism. Dinner attendee and president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL) Kristen Clarke said it was "not the end of the conversation," and the following the LCCRUL published an open letter criticising Zuckerberg's "poor governance decisions."

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"As we enter the 2020 election season and with the 2020 Census on the horizon, time is short for Facebook to rectify the gross deficiencies in its protection of civil rights. Your recent statements to Congress, policy changes, and disregard for your own civil rights audit demonstrate that you still do not grasp - or do not care about - the gravity of the harm you are causing," the letter reads.

Mark Zuckerberg may be open to some kind of compromise, according to an NBC News report on Tuesday.

Citing high-ranking Facebook sources, NBC News reported that Zuckerberg won't change his mind on the fact-checking of political ads, but he was open to ideas about how to limit the spread of lies. That might, for example, involve reducing politicians' ability to narrowly target segments of voters online with their ads, a practice known as "microtargeting." Microtargeted political ads means that few journalists or opponents get to see and fact-check claims.

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You can read the Washington Post's full report here.

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