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Facebook preparing for violent unrest after US election

Global affairs head, Nick Clegg, says ‘some break-glass options’ are available if chaos ensues 

Gino Spocchia
Tuesday 22 September 2020 14:38 BST
Trump repeats claim that election is rigged if he loses
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Facebook has planned for violent civic unrest following the United States presidential election, with content restrictions set to be imposed across the social network in such a scenario.  

That is according to Facebook’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, who outlined how the social media platform could deal with chaos in the days after 3 November.  

In an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday, Mr Clegg said multiple election outcomes had been considered by Facebook.

Plans have been drawn-up for handling widespread civic unrest as well as “the political dilemmas” of contested election results, with the counting of mail ballots expected to take days.

“There are some break-glass options available to us if there really is an extremely chaotic and, worse still, violent set of circumstances,” said Mr Clegg, without elaborating on those measures.

“We have acted aggressively in other parts of the world where we think that there is real civic instability and we obviously have the tools to do that [again],” he added.

Facebook has previously used “pretty exceptional measures to significantly restrict the circulation of content on our platform”, said Mr Clegg, who suggested the company could do the same in the US.

It follows concerns that president Donald Trump will dispute the results of November's elections, having repeatedly claimed it will be the "most inaccurate and fraudulent in history".

Mr Trump has spent months delegitimising mail-ballots, which experts believe could account for almost half of all ballots cast in 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The president has, meanwhile, encouraged his supporters to carry-out “poll watching” at voting places, sparking fears of voter intimidation and confrontation before any results are announced.

According to Mr Clegg, any high-stakes decisions will be made by Facebook executives, including himself, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

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