The Democratic National Committee sent a letter to Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg last month saying it remained troubled by the social media giant’s refusal to moderate political ads and the ability for bad actors to spread misinformation across the site going into the 2020 presidential election.
In the missive, signed by CEO Seema Nanda, the DNC warned Sandberg that the social network was playing host to a “type of elite disinformation” that threatened free and fair elections and questioned its ability to catch fake news farms that wrought havoc in 2016.
“Facebook ads play an important role in fundraising and voter engagement, and the ability for campaigns and party committees to target supporters based on their propensity to take certain actions helps citizens take a more active role in their democracy,” the letter, which HuffPost has reviewed, stated. “Facebook’s ad policies as they currently stand enable dangerous, abusive behavior that undermines democratic debate and must be addressed immediately.”
CNN first reported the contents of the letter on Tuesday. It’s unclear if Sandberg responded to the letter.
The DNC didn’t go so far as to say Facebook should ban political ads, as Twitter did in October. The group noted that the Democratic Party relied on Facebook ads “as an important vehicle for grassroots fundraising and increasing voter participation.”
“Banning political ads or severely inhibiting targeting capabilities on Facebook would not be in our party’s best interest nor in the best interest of promoting voter participation,” the letter says.
The DNC also said it had uncovered several account networks that had targeted Americans with “anti-Democratic false news content” that it had reported to Facebook and were ultimately taken down. Though the party said the networks didn’t appear to be politically motivated (they used inflamed coverage to garner ad revenue), Nanda noted the group was able to uncover the violations “on a fairly regular basis … with a team far smaller than Facebook’s.”
The DNC’s concerns come just a few months before the Iowa caucuses in February and as the 2020 presidential race heats up. But Facebook has remained under scrutiny over its political ad policy for months after the company refused to pull a campaign ad released by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign in September that contained falsehoods about former Vice President Joe Biden.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has continued to defend the company’s refusal to police political advertising. In an interview this week, he said it was a people’s own responsibility to “make their own judgments.”
“I don’t think that a private company should be censoring politicians or news,” he told “CBS This Morning” this week. “I think people should be able to judge for themselves the character of politicians.”
The move has been unpopular, even within Facebook. Hundreds of the company’s employees signed an open letter in October to Zuckerberg and his top executives, saying the position on political advertising was a “threat to what FB stands for.”