What responsibilities does Facebook, Google, or Twitter have for policing political advertisement placed on their platform?

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The essential question in determining Facebook, Google and Twitter's responsibilities for political advertising on their platforms is whether these companies are to be regarded as publishers or service providers. All three companies have initially argued that they are service providers, like utility companies supplying electricity. A power company that supplies...

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The essential question in determining Facebook, Google and Twitter's responsibilities for political advertising on their platforms is whether these companies are to be regarded as publishers or service providers. All three companies have initially argued that they are service providers, like utility companies supplying electricity. A power company that supplies electricity to a racist or fascist organization is clearly not responsible for that organization's message, even though it helps the organization to operate.

However, critics of these platforms, such as Sir Martin Sorrell in the Newsweek article attached below, have argued that these social media platforms should be treated as publishers who are responsible for the content they host. If they allow political advertising, they are granting their imprimatur to this content. The platforms themselves appear to have accepted this to a limited extent by such actions as publishing guidelines like those from Facebook linked below and by removing content that does not follow these guidelines.

Ultimately, the responsibilities assumed and accepted by social media platforms may be dictated by practical rather than philosophical considerations. Even if the platforms accept that they are responsible for political advertising and undertake to remove any material that does not align with their ethical values, policing this is such a huge task that they are likely to fail regularly and often.

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