Peter Thiel wants Facebook to keep its controversial political ads policy

The social network garnered criticism for not fact-checking ads from politicians.

Queenie Wong Former Senior Writer
Queenie Wong was a senior writer for CNET News, focusing on social media companies including Facebook's parent company Meta, Twitter and TikTok. Before joining CNET, she worked for The Mercury News in San Jose and the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. A native of Southern California, she took her first journalism class in middle school.
Expertise I've been writing about social media since 2015 but have previously covered politics, crime and education. I also have a degree in studio art. Credentials
  • 2022 Eddie award for consumer analysis
Queenie Wong
2 min read
Peter Thiel

Facebook board member Peter Thiel is advising CEO Mark Zuckerberg to not fact-check ads from politicians. 


Facebook has been under fire for allowing politicians to lie in political ads, a controversial policy that's being debated internally among the company's leaders. The social network's longtime board member Peter Thiel , a billionaire who was an early Facebook investor and who supports President Donald Trump, wants the social network to keep the policy despite all the criticism it's garnered, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. 

Thiel's stance on the issue reportedly differs from that some of Facebook's directors and executives who want to change the policy or ban political ads.

"Many of the decisions we're making at Facebook come with difficult trade-offs and we're approaching them with careful rigor at all levels of the company, from the Board of Directors down," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNET. "We're fortunate to have a Board with diverse experiences and perspectives so we can ensure debate that reflects a cross section of views."

Thiel didn't respond to a request for comment. 

The debate about how to handle ads from politicians illustrates the challenges that come with moderating political speech. Unlike other content on the site, Facebook doesn't send ads from politicians to third-party fact checkers. Critics, especially Democrats, argue that Facebook's hands-off approach allows for the spread of misinformation and that political ads should be banned. But executives including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been pushing for free expression and worries that barring political ads could favor incumbents and political candidates the media decides to cover. Then there are allegations by conservatives that Facebook is censoring their speech, which the company has repeatedly denied. 

Watch this: Hackers are targeting Facebook accounts to run ad fraud campaigns

Criticism about Facebook's political ads policy started to heat up after the company rejected a request by Joe Biden's presidential campaign to pull down an ad by President Donald Trump's reelection campaign for spreading misinformation about the former vice president. Trump's campaign ran a 30-second video on Facebook that stated Biden had promised Ukraine $1 billion if officials in that country fired the prosecutor investigating a company affiliated with Biden's son. Trump's campaign said that the ad was accurate, but the claims have been has been debunked by fact-checking groups and media reports.

Ahead of the 2020 US presidential election, other tech companies have made changes to their policies on political ads. Twitter decided to ban political ads, but the site's policy includes an exception for hot-button issues like climate change and immigration. Google has limited the targeting for election ads. 

Some of Facebook's employees have suggested different changes to the company's political ads policy. That includes a stronger visual design so users know it's a political ad, restricting ad targeting and capping the amount of money politicians can spend on these ads.

They're tweaks that Facebook is considering, though it's unclear when a decision will be made.

"As we've said, we are looking at different ways we might refine our approach to political ads," a Facebook spokesperson said.