Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to do more to grapple with disinformation spread through fake political ads on the social network.
Speaking at an event in support of the Netflix documentary “The Great Hack” earlier this week, Clinton said that “Mark Zuckerberg should pay a price for what he is doing to our democracy.”
The documentary specifically examines the UK-based data firm Cambridge Analytica which is reported to have illegally harvested Facebook users' data and is also known for working with Trump’s campaign during the 2016 US presidential election.
“Part of our problem, those of us who are appalled by this war on truth and this fake news which is truly surrounding us these days, is we’re not very good at combating it. It’s hard because you’re up against algorithms, plus all these other powerful forces, it’s really hard,” she pointed out.
Clinton also indirectly referred to scandal over Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook data which allegedly affected election results in the 2016 US presidential race, which she lost to Donald Trump.
In this vein, she said that she is “like the hit-and-run victim, who you find on the side of the road.”
She insisted that the issue is about “so many of the choices that we’re facing in society right now” rather than about “just one election.”
“The use of our data to manipulate us, to make money off of us, is really one of the cardinal challenges we face […] this is our information, but people seem to forget that they should demand to own it,” Clinton noted.
When asked if she saw any connection between Zuckerberg’s meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House and Facebook’s subsequent announcement that it would not fact-check political ads, Clinton said she is unable to “draw any conclusions about closed door meetings.”
At the same time, she said that “if I were of a conspiratorial mindset, I might suggest that there seems to be some connection” and that she doesn’t understand “the mindset that we currently see operating with Zuckerberg.”
Clinton concluded by praising Twitter for banning political ads on its website and issuing a stern message for Zuckerberg’s Facebook and other tech companies.
“It’s like a bad fairy tale. They are going to kill that golden goose. They are going to create a political system that is going to either come down too hard on them and squeeze them in ways that are not productive or continue to have a laissez faire attitude toward them where they continue to undermine our privacy and our freedom and our democracy. It could not be a more imperative challenge for us,” she asserted.
Zuckerberg Defends His Stance on Political Ads
Speaking at Georgetown University in October, Zuckerberg revealed that he decided not to ban political ads on Facebook in the name of free speech, a stance that he upheld later that month during a meeting with investors.
“Ads can be an important part of voice — especially for candidates and advocacy groups the media might not otherwise cover so they can get their message into debates,” he emphasised.
Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey, for his part, said that his company would announce officially in mid-November that it would ban all political ads on the platform, arguing that “this isn’t about free expression; it is about paying for reach.”
US President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign manager Brad Parscale called the move an attempt to “silence conservatives,” adding that he “wouldn’t be surprised if Twitter lifted the ban after 2020.”