Facebook should not use Like and Share buttons on its ads, says Sen. Mark Warner

Facebook’s Like and Share buttons have long served as valuable marketing tools for many companies. But the company does not appear to be interested in placing the buttons on all advertisements. The existing business…

Facebook’s Like and Share buttons have long served as valuable marketing tools for many companies. But the company does not appear to be interested in placing the buttons on all advertisements. The existing business model appears to be a profit-sharing arrangement: companies with business pages that use Facebook receive a cut of revenue raised when someone clicks on a Like button on their website.

After a wave of negative press about the promotion of fake news on Facebook, the company received significant pressure from Washington lawmakers who would like Facebook to restrict the spread of fake news and misinformation through advertising. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, said he thought Facebook should reconsider the use of Like and Share buttons in regard to advertisements that they publish. Facebook will release its third-quarter earnings on Wednesday.

Mr. Warner said he wasn’t alone.

“I certainly didn’t hear any support for the use of like buttons in some of the innocuous, impressionable ads that have circulated recently,” he said at a conference of technology professionals on Tuesday.

On Sunday, New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote a long column about the proliferation of “hateful white nationalists” on Facebook. Earlier that day, he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, “I’m not saying that I don’t believe that there is fake news on Facebook, but I do believe that when it is clearly racist, it is hard for me to not immediately shut it down.”

The tension between the use of Facebook ad space and questionable content shared by influential platforms such as Facebook has been a long-running issue. After the 2015 shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, critics highlighted the spread of false and racially-charged rumors that circulated on Facebook. Some advertising executives have dismissed such questions as a distraction from the more tangible issue of Facebook’s fact-checking initiatives. But other tech executives, including Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox, have acknowledged that many questionable content shared by social media sites is a continuing issue.

Last week, Facebook announced that it had partnered with third-party fact-checking organizations to identify hoaxes and reported them to the social media company’s abuse team. “In the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out an update to our reporting flows to enable people to flag content for review and give their local fact-checker the ability to amplify their investigative power,” Mr. Cox wrote in a blog post.

It is still unclear whether Mr. Warner’s call for the removal of Like and Share buttons will affect the way advertisers place those ads on Facebook. But the pressure continues to mount on the company to tackle issues of fake news on its platform.

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