Facebook to suspend political ads when polls close on Election Day

Social media platform and Instagram will crack down on premature victory announcements, voter intimidation and voting threats

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 08 October 2020 00:00
Biden V Trump: US election opinion polls
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Facebook will temporarily block US political adverts on the social media platform when polls close on Election Day, the company announced on Wednesday.

"While ads are an important way to express voice, we plan to temporarily stop running all social issue, electoral, or political ads in the US after the polls close on 3 November, to reduce opportunities for confusion or abuse,” the social media giant said in a statement on its company blog. “We will notify advertisers when this policy is lifted.”

The restrictions expand efforts to limit political dis- and misinformation around US elections following threats from Donald Trump and his supporters to undermine the results of the presidential election as well as vote-by-mail efforts.

Facebook also said it would “remove calls for people to engage in poll watching when those calls use militarised language or suggest that the goal is to intimidate, exert control, or display power over election officials or voters.” 

The company’s message targets Trump campaign ads, including ads featuring Donald Trump Jr, asking for “every able-bodied man and woman to join Army for Trump’s election security operation."

During the first presidential debate, the president also urged his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully” as he echoed baseless conspiracies about voter fraud.

In the event that the president, who commands a massive audience on social media platforms, declares victory before the results are collected, the company said it would send notifications to Facebook and Instagram users on election night with the latest results.  The company “will add more specific information in the notifications that counting is still in progress and no winner has been determined," it said.

When polls close, the company will attach labels to candidates’ posts directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Centre.

In the event that a “candidate that is declared the winner by major media outlets is contested by another candidate or party, we will show the name of the declared winning candidate with notifications at the top of Facebook and Instagram, as well as label posts from presidential candidates, with the declared winner’s name and a link to the Voting Information Center,” the company said.

Facebook also announced that it had removed more than 120,000 pieces of content that violated its voter interference policies, and added warnings to more than 150 million other pieces of content debunked by fact checking organisations.

The announcement arrives on the heels of the company’s ban on QAnon-related groups, pages and profiles across its platforms, bringing its policy on the conspiracy movement closer to its policies governing “militarised social movements" such as terror groups.

Facebook also is coordinating  with state attorneys general and “other federal, state and local law enforcement officials responsible for election protection.”

“When they identify potential voter interference, we investigate and take action if warranted, and have established strong channels of communication to respond to any election-related threats,” the company announced. “These efforts are part of our ongoing coordination with law enforcement and election authorities at all levels to protect the integrity of the election.”

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