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Facebook the Media Company

Devon Flarity

October 17, 2017
Devon Flarity

Mark Zuckerberg created a platform that was not only the first of its kind, but remains one of kind. Facebook has certainly become more than the social network it was intended to be. Some 44 percent of Americans now use Facebook as their primary source of news, according to Pew research. Analysis regarding fake news stories and foreign advertising dollars is now emerging in the market. With over 3 million advertisers and 2 billion monthly users on Facebook, how are these ads being regulated?

Standards for advertising claims have been in place for decades. Historically, the body of standards was called “Truth in Advertising.” Advertisers had to adhere to a system of making claims based on a body of factual evidence. While largely self-regulated, advertisers sometimes filed suits against competitors for making invalid claims. The process required a defense and a cease-and-desist went into place on the advertising in question.

Media outlets are also held to a certain level of responsibility for the news that they spread. Facebook for years has avoided taking responsibility for their content, insisting they’re simply a platform. However, whether Facebook likes it or not, they are used as a media outlet now and not just a platform. The situation that Facebook is now faced with is unprecedented, and Facebook must start tackling these new challenges.

It was just last month, Facebook found more than 3,000 ads that ran between 2015 and 2017 were from a Russian entity that encouraged racial and social divisions during the US election. The company took responsibility for what happened on the platform, and released next steps to prevent this abuse in the future. The next steps include making advertising more transparent, strengthening enforcement and requirements, and tightening restrictions, while still encouraging discussion of social issues and honest civic debate.

However, Facebook will need to take further steps to start regulating itself to meet the standards of a responsible media company. This should include hiring additional dedicated quality assurance staff to regulate the ads that run on the platform. Accounts should be more thoroughly monitored for dangerous activity. And users should start demanding that the company tighten up on these things as well.