November 17, 2019 Finance and Tech Publication

Top Facebook exec who left this year says political ads should be fact checked

Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Christopher Cox.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

When former Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox left the company earlier this year, he was known as an advocate inside the company for getting rid of fake news on the website.

On Friday, he said that political ads should be fact checked, which is not the company’s current policy.

“Most political ads are highly partisan, and fact-checking, part of the place I think you want to get to is find a way to do some sort of fact checking on these that’s not so partisan,” Cox said at the Wired 25 conference in San Francisco.

Cox went on to cite a project he worked on at Facebook that uses a panel of representative people to determine whether content is misleading.

In September, Facebook said that it will not fact check or remove content posted by politicians save for a few exceptions. The decision has drawn criticism from politicians like Sen. Mark Warner and even Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Cox also said that Facebook is investigating “microtargeting,” a practice that lets campaigns pay Facebook to display different ads and messages to targeted groups of people. Politico reported on Thursday that Facebook was considering restricting political microtargeting.

“The thesis of all of this stuff is it should be out in the open,” Cox said. Facebook currently publishes all of the political ads it runs, but Cox said that there can be so many different versions of various ads that it can be tricky to analyze.

Cox also suggested that Facebook could change its user interface to fight false claims. “You’re looking for ways for fact checking to not be so partisan, while also giving the user or consumer a good user experience,” Cox said.

Cox left Facebook in March, a decision he said he made with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, so he won’t be implementing these potential new policies.

While he didn’t announce a new company, Cox said on Friday he is now advising smaller groups, including a satellite startup called Planet Labs.

He also said that he’s an advisor to a left-leaning nonprofit called Acronym, which launched last year to give Democratic candidates access to better digital campaign tools.

“I’m not sitting on the board of directors, but I’ve been been helping Kara [McGowan, founder of Acronym] how to raise money, how to hire a team,” Cox said.

It’s a move into the political world that he said he could not have made if he was still working at Facebook. “When you’re in a very very senior role at a platform, you have a duty to be much more neutral,” Cox said.

But Cox is not afraid to get political now — he said on Friday that he is not a Trump supporter.

“I think Trump should not be our president, the other thing I care a lot about right now is climate change, and he’s not going to help us there,” Cox said.

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