Politics, Campaigns, and Lies…Oh My

By Collin Clark

Political campaigns play a part in influencing voters before every election, with candidates paying millions towards social media ads, creating a fight that may not be so fair, or honest. 

A candidate’s goal is to persuade during campaigns, ultimately winning the votes. “In 2016, US voters faced a choice between a presidential candidate whose campaign statements were accurate 75% of the time and another whose claims were false 70% of the time,” according to Stephen Lewandowsky, a psychologist at the University of Bristol.

Americans chose Donald Trump for president, someone known to spread falsehoods, many during this current ongoing pandemic, “Children are almost immune from this disease”, said President Trump. “Children as a group are clearly less impacted by this virus than adults, but to say they are almost immune does not provide a truthful message,” said University of South Florida public health professor Dr. Marissa J. Levine

 The Washington Post states, “In 1,267 days, President Trump has made 20,055 false or misleading claims.” Americans are willing to close their eyes to the lies spread by the president, they certainly aren’t going to disarm the lies being spread during active campaigns. Although campaign attack ads aren’t new, 20,055 lies in a presidency is. This number continues to rise based off The Fact Checker’s ongoing database.              

Social Media play a large role in adding lies and manipulation to the mix of politics and election campaigns. Candidates in the 2020 races have spent more than sixty-three million dollars marketing their political ads on Facebook and Google. Those numbers being significant because of the amount of lies within those advertisements targeting specific groups of people on Facebook and Google, according to Vox.

Trump’s campaign has spent $24 million on ad buys in 2019. After a manipulated ad was shared via Facebook about Joe Biden’s son, the Biden campaign asked Facebook to remove the ad, however, they refused to do so. Facebook refusing to remove these fallacies allows these lies to stay in place and further influence viewers.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Katie Harbath, Facebook’s public-policy director for global elections, wrote to the Biden campaign. “Thus, when a politician speaks or makes an ad, we do not send it to third party fact-checkers.”

Facebook runs on algorithms that promote certain content over others; those algorithms are not neutral. Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications compares Facebook to a tennis court. “Our job is to make sure the court is ready—the surface is flat, the lines painted, the net at the correct height,” he said last month during a speech in Washington. “But we don’t pick up the racket and start playing. How the players play the game is up to them.” 

Public figures and our leaders are given the ability to push their agenda in the American citizens face, whether it be truthful or not on certain terms. They are able to manipulate opinion based on who views these ads.

Less than a year ago, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, dismissed the idea of banning political ads saying that,”banning political ads favors incumbents and whoever the media chooses to cover.” While twitter, decided to ban all political advertisements.

As of this past September, Facebook has decided to prohibit new political ads in the week before the U.S. presidential election. Mark Zuckerberg said, “confusion and deliberate misinformation about the outcome are more likely than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic and deep political divisions.”

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