Sand­berg dings Twit­ter for po­lit­i­cal ad de­ci­sion

The Washington Post - - ECONOMY & BUSINESS - BY HAMZA SHABAN hamza.shaban@wash­post.com

Face­book chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Sh­eryl Sand­berg crit­i­cized Twit­ter on Thurs­day over the com­pany’s de­ci­sion to block Rep. Marsha Black­burn (RTenn.) from pro­mot­ing an ad­ver­tise­ment on the so­cial me­dia site that Twit­ter had deemed “in­flam­ma­tory.”

“Marsha Black­burn ran an ad, which is launch­ing her cam­paign for Sen­ate. And in that ad, there’s a lot of po­si­tions that peo­ple don’t like — that I don’t like,” Sand­berg said in an in­ter­view with Ax­ios that was broad­cast on Face­book Live. “But the ques­tion is: Should di­vi­sive po­lit­i­cal or is­sue ads run? Our an­swer is yes.”

Ear­lier this week, Black­burn launched her cam­paign for the Sen­ate through an on­line video out­lin­ing her po­lit­i­cal be­liefs. In the video, Black­burn said that she had worked to stop “the sale of baby body parts,” a ref­er­ence to her op­po­si­tion to fe­tal-tis­sue re­search. Her cam­paign paid to have the video pro­moted as an ad on Twit­ter, but the so­cial me­dia com­pany on Mon­day moved to bar Black­burn from do­ing so.

Ac­cord­ing to cam­paign spokes­woman An­drea Bozek, Twit­ter said the ad was “deemed an in­flam­ma­tory state­ment that is likely to evoke a strong neg­a­tive re­ac­tion.” Black­burn’s cam­paign and any other Twit­ter user could share the ad, but Black­burn was pre­vented from pay­ing to pro­mote it to a broader au­di­ence.

In a cam­paign email, Black­burn seized on what she per­ceived as po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated cen­sor­ship, telling her sup­port­ers that “Sil­i­con Val­ley is in the pocket of the lib­eral es­tab­lish­ment, but our con­ser­va­tive rev­o­lu­tion is go­ing to keep on win­ning.”

A day later, Twit­ter re­versed its de­ci­sion.

“Twit­ter tried to cen­sor us & you rose up! This is a vic­tory for free speech & the con­ser­va­tive rev­o­lu­tion. Let’s carry this to the Sen­ate!” the Black­burn cam­paign tweeted Tues­day.

Dur­ing Thurs­day’s in­ter­view, Sand­berg said that Face­book al­lows such di­vi­sive, is­sue­based ads, “be­cause when you cut off speech for one per­son, you cut off speech for all peo­ple.” The Black­burn video ad is run­ning as a spon­sored post on Face­book.

“We don’t check the in­for­ma­tion peo­ple put on Face­book be­fore they run it,” she said, “and I don’t think any­one should want us to do that.”

Sand­berg also fielded ques­tions about Face­book’s co­op­er­a­tion with Con­gress as House and Sen­ate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­ga­tors ex­am­ine the role of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

Last month, the com­pany said it had iden­ti­fied more than 3,000 ad­ver­tise­ments pur­chased in a Rus­sian-or­ches­trated cam­paign to in­flu­ence the Amer­i­can pub­lic’s views and ex­ploit di­vi­sions around con­tentious is­sues.

Sand­berg em­pha­sized that Face­book has shared the con­tent of those ads with the com­mit­tees and that the com­pany is also work­ing with other dig­i­tal plat­forms to pre­vent for­eign med­dling.

Of­fi­cials from Face­book, Twit­ter and Google are ex­pected to tes­tify in front of two con­gres­sional com­mit­tees next month.

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