When misinformation poses serious risks of harm, social media platforms have often prohibited and removed such content. In other cases, where the harm of the falsehood is more diffuse, platforms have pursued a milder, alternative remedy: they label the post as false or misleading, posting a link to a third-party fact-checker. With respect to these cases, platforms strikingly diverge in their approach to politicians’ speech. While X and TikTok subject politicians’ posts to the same scrutiny as those of ordinary users, Meta exempts politicians from fact-checking labels, allowing them to post mildly harmful misinformation uncontested. Can this exemption be justified? We argue that it cannot. We explore four potential reasons for exempting politicians: (1) respect for free expression, (2) respect for the democratic process, (3) opportunities for scrutiny, and (4) newsworthiness. We argue that none of these reasons justifies an exemption.

Co-authored with Sarah Fisher, Beatriz Kira, and Kiran A. Basavaraj

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