Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Facebook to freeze Political Ads ahead of US Election

Ahead of the 2020 US Presidential elections Facebook has announced a change to political ads. Facebook said that it will not take any new political ads in the week prior to the on 3 November.

However, it will still allow existing ads to continue to be promoted and targeted at different users.

The CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg revealed this measure in a Facebook post. He said that he was “worried” about divisions in the country potentially leading to civil unrest.

The social network has faced criticism for allowing political ads to be “micro-targeted” on its platform. This ads are targeted so that they are only seen by small communities rather than debated more widely in the days after they appear.

The Mozilla Foundation has claimed that this makes it easier for politicians and their supporters to parade fiction as fact. It also helps them avoid being called out on it until it is too late. This is especially as Facebook has previously said ads placed by candidates would not be fact-checked.

The new steps could serve as a precedent for how the firm handles elections elsewhere in the future.

Facebook also revealed that it would remove videos of President Trump encouraging voters in North Carolina to vote twice, which is illegal.

Any videos of Mr Trump’s comments without contextualising information would be taken down, the firm said in a statement.

Facebook CEO claims of a ‘Divided nation’

The United States President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed the election could be “rigged” due to voter fraud. There is, however, no evidence of widespread voter fraud in previous polls.

According to Mr Zuckerberg, the coming elections will be “business as usual”. He said: “With our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or even weeks to be finalised. There could be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country”.

To reduce the spread of rumours and deliberate falsehoods on Facebook, the firm said it will implement a series of measures:

  1. No new political ads will be accepted in the week before the election.
  2. Posts claiming people will get Covid-19 if they take part in the vote will be removed.
  3. Information labels will be attached to posts seeking to delegitimise the outcome of the election.
  4. Labels will also be added to posts by candidates that seek to claim victory before the final results are in.

Mr Zuckerberg also said that Facebook had also “strengthened” its enforcement policies against movements known to spread conspiracy theories. Thousands of Facebook groups associated with these movements had already been removed. The move have, however, attracted widespread criticism.

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