In brief: Facebook believes that creating a safer and more open internet would be much easier through "smart regulation" as opposed to breaking tech giants into smaller companies. However, the social giant is a dominant force in online communication that has just decided to treat political discourse as "newsworthy" as long as it doesn't incite to violence. The company says it doesn't want to become a self-appointed arbiter of truth, but at the same time leaves its platform open for abuse.
Facebook has a mixed record when it comes to building a neutral platform, and it looks like the official position of the social giant hasn't changed substantially in the face of several scandals around the way it manages its power over online communication. The company's head of global affairs and communications, Nick Clegg, says Facebook's community guidelines won't apply to the political discourse even if it breaks the rules, as it supposedly goes against the core of the platform to censor public conversation.
Clegg noted "it is not our role to intervene when politicians speak." However, their posts will get removed if their content could "lead to real world violence and harm," which is a similar attitude to the one Twitter has expressed in its latest policy changes.
As the 2020 US presidential race is heating up, the two social giants will view political speech as "newsworthy content" that will also get a pass from the fact-checking that applies to most other content.
In terms of how Facebook plans to tackle election integrity, Clegg says it will be more transparent about who pays for displaying political ads and will also apply more stringent rules for that type of content than it would for "ordinary speech and rethoric." The company is also working with other tech giants like Microsoft to improve deepfake detection tools, although some experts say we're only six months away from manipulated clips that look like the real deal.
As a former leader of the Liberal Democrats party in the UK, who was the country's deputy prime minister before joining Facebook, Clegg is convinced the company only needs to be regulated better. Earlier this year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed a similar viewpoint, which could be a sign that Facebook is trying to appeal regulators in the US and the EU, who are currently probing every aspect of its business.
Clegg also takes issue with the fact that while the social giant is subject to a lot of criticism all around the world, it's mostly US regulators who have been asking to break tech giants into smaller companies. This comes days after Zuckerberg had an unannounced meeting with US officials at the White House, where he was asked, among other things, if he would consider selling WhatsApp and Instagram as a way to translate his many promises of a better Facebook into a reality.