WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23: Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill October 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg testified about Facebook's proposed cryptocurrency Libra, how his company will handle false and misleading information by political leaders during the 2020 campaign and how it handles its users' data and privacy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Facebook's political ad policy under pressure
04:09 - Source: CNN Business
London and New York CNN Business  — 

A controversial policy allowing politicians to run false ads on Facebook will extend to the United Kingdom as the country prepares to vote in a historic December election, Facebook confirmed to CNN Business.

The policy is being championed by Facebook executive Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom who himself once complained about “lies” spread during the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The company will not fact-check ads run by British political parties and the thousands of candidates running for election to the House of Commons. Ads from other political groups, like the pro-Brexit group Leave.EU, will be subjected to fact-checking, the company confirmed.

The same policy in the United States has led to a backlash from Democratic presidential candidates, Congress, and even some Facebook employees. The scrutiny has prompted its Silicon Valley rival Twitter to announce that it would stop accepting political ads next month. Google-owned YouTube, however, allowed the Trump campaign to run a false ad. Google did not respond to a request for comment on Friday about its policy for the British election

Damian Collins, a Conservative member of Parliament who has been spearheading parliamentary hearings on Facebook, told CNN Business Friday: “People shouldn’t be able to spread disinformation during election campaigns just because they are paying Facebook to do so.”

After the 2016 referendum, Clegg, who wanted Britain to remain in the European Union, lamented to The Yorkshire Post about “the colossal scale of the lies spread by the Leave campaign.”

However, Clegg, who joined Facebook in 2018, does not believe Facebook should be responsible for fact-checking politicians.

The policy has been in place for about a year. But Clegg reignited the issue in a speech in Washington, DC, in September.

“Would it be acceptable to society at large to have a private company in effect become a self-appointed referee for everything that politicians say? I don’t believe it would be,” Clegg said. “In open democracies, voters rightly believe that, as a general rule, they should be able to judge what politicians say themselves.”

Clegg said Facebook will “draw the line at any speech which can lead to real world violence and harm.”

Collins has pressed Clegg to have Facebook hold politicians’ advertisements to the same standards as others.

“You have to question whether Nick Clegg has made any positive difference at Facebook. He certainly hasn’t from our perspective,” Collins told CNN Business.

The company will stop politicians from running ads that directly link to content that has already been debunked by its fact-checkers. However, if a politician were to repeat the same false information themselves, it would be allowed, the company confirmed.

The December 12 UK election will be one of the first times the controversial Facebook policy will be tested in a major contest in an English-speaking country, one that’s being described as among the most important in UK history.

The country continues to find itself stumbling as it attempts to leave the European Union, with two successive Conservative Prime Ministers – Theresa May and now Boris Johnson – failing to get a Brexit deal through a severely fractured parliament.

Who gets elected to Parliament will shape what Brexit looks like — and possibly determine whether it happens at all.

There are strict rules around campaigning in the UK – campa