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Facebook Users Protest Against Misinformation in Political Ads

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Facebook's current political ads policy does not take any action against ads run by political leaders or groups even if they contain misinformation or lies.

Some advocacy groups in Bay Area rallied on Monday in front of a property owned by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in downtown San Francisco to urge him to stop profiting from misinformation ads for US politicians. People from various cities in the Bay Area gathered outside Zuckerberg's house on Presidents' Day, which falls on Monday, to stage a "Wake the ZUCK Up" protest by chanting slogans and making noises with whistles to press him for making changes to his political ads policy, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Under current Facebook political ads policy, the Silicon Valley tech giant will not take any action against advertisements run by political leaders or groups even if they contain misinformation or lies, and those political ads, which target directly particular populations, create "a completely distorted political dialogue," Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director of the San Francisco-based non-profit Media Alliance, said.

She criticized Facebook for using artificial intelligence to manipulate ad content so that other people cannot see it at all. "This kind of mechanical distortion of communication on behalf of political candidates is an inordinate threat to democracy," she said. The protesters called themselves "fed-up Facebook users" who are not happy with what's going on with Facebook. "We don't want distorted information fed to us day after day for your personal profit," Rosenberg stressed.

She said her organization will partner with other groups to contact some Facebook advertisers to press Zuckerberg's company to take on greater "corporate social responsibility" and handle "political ads in a much better way." Monday's event was organized by Media Alliance and another San Francisco non-profit Global Exchange, in partnership with other community and advocacy groups in the Bay Area.

On January 9, Facebook Director of Product Management Rob Leathern said the company will continue to allow political ads on its platform including Instagram, despite possible false information in those ads run by politicians. He reasserted that "people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public." He argued that decisions about those topics should not be made by private companies like Facebook.