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Satirical sites test Facebook's free speech policy with fake headlines about Zuckerberg

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Social media companies call President Trump's executive order a threat to internet freedom 02:28

After Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said social media companies should not be "arbiters of truth," satirical websites began testing that idea — by taking aim at Zuckerberg himself. 

Satirical sites like The Onion, The Shovel and The Chaser posted fake headlines about Zuckerberg himself, which are still up on their Facebook pages. Some of the headlines accuse him of absurd and clearly fabricated behavior, illegal conduct, or even claim he died from coronavirus — which is false. While these posts could be seen as misinformation, they also make a serious point about the role and responsibilities of social media platforms in today's troubled world.

Zuckerberg has faced criticism for not doing enough to rein in the rampant spread of misinformation on Facebook, and he defended his stance this week after Twitter shifted gears and slapped a fact-check label on a tweet by President Trump. 

"I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online," Zuckerberg said in an interview with Fox News. "Private companies probably shouldn't be, especially these platform companies, shouldn't be in the position of doing that."

The satirical websites are not the only ones to take aim at Zuckerberg after he denied his company has a responsibility to combat falsehoods on its platform. #DeleteFacebook started to trend on Twitter Thursday morning after Fox News aired clips of Zuckerberg's interview.

While Twitter announced this month that it will begin to label tweets with disputed or misleading information — including ones from Mr. Trump — Facebook's policy on misinformation differs.

Following the 2016 election, Facebook received widespread criticism for enabling the spread of misinformation. Last year, the company announced it was taking new steps to respond, including monitoring groups that spread fake information and adding expert fact-checkers from outside the company.

However, Facebook insisted it would not fact-check political ads, a move that critics say gives politicians license to lie in targeted ads that can't be easily monitored by outsiders. Zuckerberg has repeatedly argued that "political speech is important" and that Facebook doesn't want to interfere with it.

Twitter, on the other hand, banned political ads in November 2019 and Google took steps to make it harder for political advertisers to target specific types of people.

After applying its new fact-checking policy to Mr. Trump's tweet this week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended the decision, writing in a tweet that the company will "continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make." 

Dorsey also hit back at Zuckerberg, saying: "This does not make us an 'arbiter of truth."

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