Facebook to limit last-minute political ads in final US election push

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook has said it would stop accepting new political advertisements in the week prior to the US elections on the 3rd of November, in a series of moves that the company charged as its final plan for reducing dangers of misinformation and election hindrance.

Facebook will continue to allow campaigns and other people to run political advertisements which are currently in the machine, and will allow them to alter spending numbers and user targeting, but will obstruct alterations to the ads’ content or design.

In an interview on CBS News, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said of the measures, “This will surely apply to the president once this policy goes into place, and it’ll apply to everyone equally.”

“I’m also concerned that with our nation so broken and election results maybe taking days or weeks to be finalised, there might be an increased risk of civil unrest throughout the nation,” he added.

A Facebook spokesman told journalists at our partner news agency Reuters that political advertisers can resume creating new ads after Election Day.

Twitter Inc last year banned political ads, and Google limited the ways election advertisers could micro-target voters.

Facebook has been battered by criticism from the left of politics, including from its own employees, since allowing several inflammatory posts by the sitting Head of State to remain untouched earlier this summer, including one that contained misleading claims about mail-in ballots.

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President Donald J Trump

After the wide-ranging announcement, Facebook placed a new label on a post by Trump in which it noted “voting by mail has a long history of trustworthiness in the US and the exact same is predicted this season.”

Experts on disinformation 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.

Vanita Gupta, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, tweeted that Facebook’s moves were “considerable developments and come after much pressure from the civil rights community. But everything — any impact — rests on authorities. We’ll stay vigilant.”

The Trump campaign on Thursday slammed the announcement, “When millions of Republicans will be making their decisions, the president is going to be affected from the Silicon Valley Mafia,” said Samantha Zager, a Trump campaign spokeswoman.

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But Democratic digital group Acronym said in a statement that Facebook’s move amounted to deciding to “tip the scales of this election to those with the best followings on Facebook – and that includes President Trump along with the right-wing press which serves him.”

Joe Biden

The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Make no mistake – you can still spread misinformation with political ads on Facebook, you just can’t get it done with NEW ads only ONE week before Election Day,” said Angelo Carusone, president of the liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America.

DOMESTIC, FOREIGN THREATS

Zuckerberg said Facebook was “increasingly seeing attempts to undermine the legitimacy of our elections from inside our own boundaries” in addition to foreign influence campaigns, like the one it and US intelligence agencies determined Russia carried out to meddle in the 2016 vote. Moscow has denied the allegations.

To address those threats, Facebook will label any posts seeking to delegitimise the outcome of the election, he wrote.

The company will also widen the criteria for content to be removed as voter suppression and will remove posts with misinformation about coronavirus and voting, which Mr Zuckerberg said could be used to scare people away from exercising their right to vote.

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Seeking to boost credible information in addition to tamping down misleading posts, Facebook will partner with Reuters to provide news in the social network’s Voting Information Center about official results. It also said it would limit the number of messages that can be forwarded at one time to five.

“I am pleased to see that Facebook is finally starting to accept some responsibility for the misuse of its own platforms threatens our democracy,” Commissioner Ellen Weintraub of the Federal Election Commission said in a statement to journalists.

“But no one needs to be under any delusions that this may resolve all the problems that Facebook presents to our elections.”

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Jonathan Landay. Editing by Steve Orlofsky.

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