Facebook to halt new political ads on cusp of US election

WION Web Team
Washington, United States Updated: Sep 04, 2020, 08:28 AM(IST)

A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration Photograph:( Reuters )

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The social media giant vowed to fact check premature claims of victory, stating that if a candidate tries to declare himself the winner before final votes are tallied 'we'll add a label to their posts directing people to the official results.'

Facebook Inc said on Thursday it ban new political ads the week before the US election in November, bowing to concern that its loose approach to free speech could once again be exploited to interfere with the vote.

The social media giant vowed to fact check premature claims of victory, stating that if a candidate tries to declare himself the winner before final votes are tallied "we'll add a label to their posts directing people to the official results."

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The world's biggest social network also said it was creating a label for posts by candidates or campaigns that try to claim victory before the election results are official, and widening the criteria for content to be removed as voter suppression.

Also read: Russian influence campaign targeted left-wing voters in US and UK, says Facebook

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post announcing the changes that he was concerned about the unique challenges voters would face due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted a surge in voting by mail.

"I'm also worried that with our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or even weeks to be finalized, there could be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country," he said.

Facebook also started limiting its Messenger service to allow users to forward missives to no more than five people or groups at a time "to help curb the efforts of those looking to cause chaos, sow uncertainty or inadvertently undermine accurate information."

The moves follow sharp criticism of Facebook's handling of the 2016 presidential election, when it failed to restrict disinformation from Russian operatives that spread conspiracy theories and discouraged voting in some cases.

Facebook has been battered by criticism, including from its own employees, since allowing several inflammatory posts by President Donald Trump to remain untouched earlier this summer, including one which contained misleading claims about mail-in ballots.

Disinformation experts have also raised the alarm, echoed in threat assessments by Facebook executives, about false claims and conspiracy theories spreading in the increasingly likely scenario that official results are not immediately available on election night.

Zuckerberg said Facebook was "increasingly seeing attempts to undermine the legitimacy of our elections from within our own borders" in addition to foreign influence campaigns, like the one it and U.S. intelligence agencies determined Russia carried out to meddle in the 2016 vote.

The US is gearing up for what is expected to be a bruising campaign season against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and mass protests for racial justice that have led to violent conflict in some cities between civil rights groups and armed right-wing vigilantes.

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