The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is preparing for potential turmoil around the US presidential election on November 3rd using internal tools it has previously used in countries such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
The plans could include slowing the spread of posts as they start to go viral, modifying the algorithm of the news feed to change what content users see, and changing the rules for what sort of content is unsafe and requires removal.In so-called “at-risk” countries struggling with mass ethnic conflict or political bloodshed, these are tactics Facebook has previously used.
According to the WSJ, the tools can only be used in the event of electoral violence or other extreme situations, but some employees in the organisation expressed concern that attempts to slow down viral content might inadvertently mask legitimate political debates.
Many years ago Facebook was highly criticised for dealing with violent hate speech in Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims. The social media giant has acknowledged, after an independent review of the situation in 2018, that it was not ‘sufficient to avoid our site being used to promote discord and provoke violence offline. It agreed to adequately plan for future threats. We accept that we should and should do more.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a September blog post that the US presidential election “is not going to be business as normal.” He said he was “worried that with our nation so divided and the election results possibly taking days or weeks to be finalized, there could be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country.”
Platforms are equipped for chaos pre and post-election in the US, after the persistent criticism of President Trump of the mail-in vote, which is a pandemic caused by coronavirus that many people are using. He also refused to say whether he would accept the outcome whether he loses.
Facebook said that a week before the election in the United States they would not allow new political advertising (but those already accepted are still in use). On the top of Facebook and Instagram feeds, it also added a “voter information center” to deliver the live results of elections, where possible through a collaboration with Reuters. Facebook announced that it will mark any messages that declare premature victory and delete posts with misstatement of COVID-19 and voting. And after 3 November elections it plans to bar all US political advertising indefinitely.