According to several news reports, Facebook plans to end a contentious policy championed by CEO Mark Zuckerberg that exempted politicians from certain moderation rules on its site.
The company’s rationale for that policy held that the speech of political leaders is inherently newsworthy and in the public interest, even if it is offensive, bullying, or otherwise controversial. The social media giant is currently mulling over what to do with the account of former President Donald Trump, which it “indefinitely” suspended on 6 January, leaving it in Facebook limbo with its owners unable to post.
The newsworthiness exemption, he explained in a blog post at the time, meant that if “someone makes a statement or shares a post which breaks our community standards, we will still allow it on our platform if we believe the public interest in seeing it. Outweighs the risk of harm.”Facebook has had a general “newsworthiness exemption” since 2016. But it garnered attention in 2019 when Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs and communications, announced that speech from politicians would be treated as “newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard.”
This hasn’t given politicians unlimited license, however. When Facebook suspended Trump in January, it cited “the risk of further incitement of violence” following the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol as the reason. The company says it has never used the newsworthiness exemption for any of Trump’s posts.