Facebook Clamps Down On Posts, Ads That Could Undermine U.S. Presidential Election
Facebook says it won’t accept any new political ads in the week leading up to the presidential election, one of several policies that CEO Mark Zuckerberg said will help ensure a fair election in November. One such measure intended to prevent election undermining involves deleting posts that claim people will get COVID-19 if they vote.
«This election is not going to be business as usual,» Zuckerberg said Thursday about the vote that is now two months away. «We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy.»
Facebook is already working to help people register to vote and to clarify how the election will work during a pandemic, Zuckerberg said. And in light of the intense political antagonism in the U.S., he added that the social media company will act «to reduce the chances of violence and unrest.»
The company recently joined Twitter in removing accounts that spread «false stories about racial justice, the Democratic presidential campaign of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and President Trump’s policies,» as NPR’s Bobby Allyn reported.
Those removed accounts were linked to Russian state actors, suggesting Russia is once again seeking to influence U.S. elections with misinformation and by amplifying the differences among Americans.
Facebook And Twitter Remove Russia-Backed Accounts Targeting Left-Leaning Voters
But there is a new wrinkle for the Nov. 3 vote, Zuckerberg said. He noted that while Facebook has removed dozens of international networks that spread bogus stories, «we’re increasingly seeing attempts to undermine the legitimacy of our elections from within our own borders.»
Hoping to address those threats, the company and its CEO outlined several changes in how it handles ads, posts and other content, in hopes of preserving fair play in the election.
If a post aims to undermine the legitimacy of the election – for instance, by «claiming that lawful methods of voting will lead to fraud,» Facebook says – the company will attach an informational label. A similar approach will cover any content whose goal is to delegitimize the election’s outcome.
Other posts would be removed outright, if they «claim that people will get COVID-19 if they take part in voting,» the company says. If a post doesn’t go quite that far – but still seeks to use COVID-19 to suppress voter participation — Facebook will attach a link to verified information about the coronavirus.
The policy restricting new political or issue ads in the final week of the campaign season does not mean Facebook users won’t see any political ads in that time. Instead, advertisers can continue running ads that have already been published and scrutinized.
«It’s important that campaigns can run get out the vote campaigns, and I generally believe the best antidote to bad speech is more speech,» Zuckerbeg said, «but in the final days of an election there may not be enough time to contest new claims.»
The company’s plan also includes potential measures that could be taken to rein in candidates or campaign accounts on Facebook that claim victory before final election results are in. In those cases, Facebook says, it will tack on a label that sends readers to authoritative election results, from either Reuters or the National Election Pool.
The company will also limit the ability to forward content on its Messenger platform, in hopes of «reducing the risk of misinformation and harmful content going viral,» Zuckerberg said.
«We’ve already implemented this in WhatsApp during sensitive periods and have found it to be an effective method of preventing misinformation from spreading in many countries,» he added.
Editor’s note: Facebook is among NPR’s financial supporters.