Protesters gather in front of Facebook HQ to decry its policy of allowing lies in political ads

A small group of protesters gathered outside Facebook’s headquarters in January 2020 to protest the company’s policy of refusing to take down political ads with false information.

CNBC | Salvador Rodriguez

A small group of protesters gathered outside of Facebook‘s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on Thursday to demand that the company stop running political ads on its social network.

The protest included folks from a number of progressive Bay Area groups, including Media Alliance, Global Exchange and the Raging Grannies Action League. The protesters said Facebook’s policies make it possible for American voters to be manipulated through false information and targeted ads.

The company has argued that fact checking political ads could interfere with free speech in politics. But Facebook has come under fire for the policy over the past several weeks, and on Thursday, it reiterated its position but announced that it would also give users a new control to reduce the amount of political ads they see.

“Ultimately, we don’t think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies, which is why we are arguing for regulation that would apply across the industry,” wrote Facebook’s director of product management, Rob Leathern, in a company blog post.

The protesters did not agree. 

“We don’t feel that Facebook has done anywhere near enough to make sure that their gigantic platform is free from electoral manipulation,” said Ted Lewis, co-executive director of Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights organization. “We know the power of the platform, and we’re asking Facebook to be a good corporate citizen.”

The protesters rallied across from Facebook’s famous thumbs up sign, where they held posters and yelled chants such as”Fake news, real hate.”

Some at the protest also called for more regulation of Facebook, with at least one protester holding a sign reading “Break Up Facebook.”

“It would be nice if we could find an alternative to Facebook for communication,” said protester Jenny White with Indivisible Berkeley, a group whose mission is to resist the Trump agenda. “Facebook needs competitors. They don’t have any now, and that’s very dangerous.”

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