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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

Do companies like Facebook and Twitter have an obligation to fact check advertisements?


[one_third]LiberalColin Bayne

It’s mid-July, the temperature just hit the triple digits and you have to walk to the bus stop on the way to work. You wonder how many layers of deodorant you should put on to keep the sweat from drenching through your shirt. With an undershirt, you can hide the embarrassing dark spots that’ll inevitably show through your underarms, but that would only make it feel a hundred degrees hotter. Hot weather is plain uncomfortable, no matter how you dress or what you do. Cold weather, on the other hand, is something you can prepare for. With enough layers of clothing, even subzero temperatures can feel like a walk in the park. 

Along with cold weather comes a whole new lineup of fashion choices that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Nice jackets, hoodies, long sleeve shirts and more comfortable clothing finally get put on the list of available clothes to wear, along with hats, gloves and scarves. 

The best outfits also go with the natural beauty of the surroundings. In the fall, leaves turn every shade of red and orange, turning an otherwise monochrome forest into a canvas full of brilliant hues. In the winter, while these leaves are gone, snow makes everything feel much more serene and peaceful, which is more than welcome on a stressful school day.

A snow day is a relaxing time to catch up on schoolwork drinking cocoa in your dorm. If you want to go out, you can enjoy a snowball fight or build a snowman decorated with traffic cones. Additionally, activities like sledding and skiing are only possible with a healthy amount of snow.

Fall and winter also have the best holidays of the year. Halloween is a great opportunity to watch a scary movie or dress up and go to a party with your friends. Thanksgiving allows a four-day weekend to recover from classes and spend time with family pigging out and watching football, which is closely followed by Black Friday. Even if you can’t afford to buy items yourself, surely relatives can provide those wishes, since Christmastime comes with nothing but good tidings and happy faces. 

Last but certainly not least, the reason cold weather is uncontestably the best is BUGS—or the lack thereof. Mosquitos are the nuisance that ruins summer’s bonfires and camping trips. Being able to walk freely through your backyard without getting swarmed by a thousand mosquitos makes any climate bearable. If the rest of the reasons weren’t enough, the break from insects for a couple of months should be enough to make everyone appreciate cold weather.

[one_third]IndependentDaniil Ivanov

Companies, as a principle, have no moral obligations because they are neither people nor are they members of society. The base expectation of a company is to create a product or a service and to sell to consumers. The government steps in in a limited role to regulate companies and products for consumer safety and to tax businesses for their usage of government provided services. 

Many businesses delve into philanthropic and ethical endeavors, but I would argue that most of these corporations do so for publicity, which in turn increases revenue, rather than for any moral reasons. In the same way that a company can increase quality in return for an increase in cost because they know a smaller number of consumers will pay a larger sum for a higher quality product, the demand for sustainable or ethically sourced materials from consumers means that suppliers will bend to the needs of the public. 

Facebook, Twitter, Google and other corporations thus have no moral obligation to fact check advertisements or to protect the consumer from anything. Consumer protection is the job of government agencies, and if the government deems factually incorrect advertising to be a danger to consumers, then specific legislation should be drafted to address such concerns. 

However, for the sake of maintaining good public relations, companies will have no choice but to monitor advertisements if that is what the public demands. A growing health-conscious public demanded healthy and more natural foods, so organic and GMO-free products grew in popularity. Gluten became demonized, so companies came to fill the gluten-free demands. Cyber-security became a new issue in the minds of many consumers, so now Apple commercials highlight how secure data on your IPhone is. 

If Facebook and Twitter are given enough pressure by the government and, more importantly, popular demand, to fact-check ads then they will have no option but to do so. But, it’s in no way their obligation to take that initiative up on their own. 

[one_third]ConservativeMark Pothen

After a call by the political left for the fact-checking of political ads, Twitter submitted and took down all political ads, while Facebook decided to continue to run political ads without fact checks. Before platforms like Twitter and Facebook existed, the means of distribution of information belonged to large news companies such as the New York Times or NBC. However, in this Internet Age, platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow information to be conveyed to a broad audience without the need for  news outlets. 

This ability to reach out to broad swaths of people is especially useful to individuals trying to push a certain agenda. The reason  the left is pushing so hard to fact check these political ads is so that they can shut down speech that they disagree with on the basis that it is promulgating misinformation. More speech is better than less speech and even if it is misinformation, it is the job of the public to discern what is correct and what is false through the bevy of information made available by good reporting. 

The left seems to think that if an individual is exposed to a political ad that has a conservative opinion in it then it should be shut down; if it is not then you will helplessly believe everything that is said in the political ad. This argument is similar to the defense levied by Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and founder of Facebook, for why his platform would continue to run unchecked political ads. Zuckerberg said “In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news. And although I’ve considered whether we should not carry these ads in the past, and I’ll continue to do so, on balance so far I’ve thought we should continue. Ads can be an important part of voice – especially for candidates and advocacy groups the media might not otherwise cover so they can get their message into debates.” He went on to say that “it’s hard to define where to draw the line. Would we really block ads for important political issues like climate change or women’s empowerment? Instead, I believe the better approach is to work to increase transparency.” 

Zuckerberg makes a very accurate point because given the left’s ever-shifting standard of what is acceptable in public discourse, there is no limiting principle on what speech could potentially be shut down. Zuckerberg openly acknowledges that political ads only make up  0.5% of Facebook’s revenue. This general movement of political ad censorship is just another assault on free speech and another way for the left to shut down speech that they disagree with. 

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