Facebook has announced that it’ll not combat any new political ads within the seven days before the US election on 3 November.
However, the firm will still allow existing ads to continue to be promoted and targeted at different users.
Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg revealed the 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 in order that they’re only seen by small communities instead of 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 and avoid being called out thereon until it’s too late, particularly as Facebook has previously said ads placed by candidates wouldn’t be fact-checked.
The new steps could function a precedent for a way the firm handles elections elsewhere within the future.
President Trump has repeatedly claimed the election might be “rigged” thanks to voter fraud.
However, there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud in previous polls.
“This election isn’t getting to be business as was common,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote.
“With our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or maybe weeks to be finalized, there might be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country,” he added.
In an attempt to stymie the spread of rumors and deliberate falsehoods on Facebook, the firm has said it’ll implement a series of measures:
no new political ads are going to be accepted within the week before the election
posts claiming people will get Covid-19 if they participate within the vote are going to be removed
information labels are going to be attached to posts seeking to delegitimize the result of the election
labels also will be added to posts by candidates that seek to say victory before the ultimate results are in
Mr. Zuckerberg also said that Facebook had also “strengthened” its enforcement policies against movements known to spread conspiracy theories, like QAnon.
Thousands of Facebook groups related to these movements had already been removed, he said.
The moves have, however, attracted criticism.
The chief of Media Matters for America – a liberal media monitoring body – described it as being a pointless PR stunt.
“They will still let political ads be rerun and targeted to new groups during [the last] week goodbye because the ad was run and had one impression before 27 October,” tweeted Angelo Carusone.
“So, you’ll run a nasty ad now, pause it then reuse it that week.”
An academic who specializes in how tech and politics interact made a related point.
“Campaigns will produce and run thousands of pieces of creative in the days before the cut off so they can run the final week,” said Daniel Kreiss, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.