Facebook to freeze political ads before US presidential election

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    US election 2020

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Zuckerberg
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image copyrightGetty Images

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image captionMark Zuckerberg wrote that the election would not “be business as usual”

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Facebook has announced that it will not take on any new political ads in the seven days prior to the US election on 3 November.

Its chief Mark Zuckerberg revealed the
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measure in a Facebook post.

He said that he was “worried” about divisions in the country potentially leading to civil unrest.

He added that Facebook would also label posts from candidates attempting to declare victory before the votes had been counted.

The social network has faced criticism for allowing political ads to be “micro-targeted” on its platform 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 and avoid being called out on it until it is too late, particularly 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.

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‘Divided nation’

President Trump has repeatedly claimed the election
could be “rigged” due to voter fraud.

“This election is not going to be business as usual,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote.

“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,” he added.

In an effort to stymie the spread of rumours and deliberate falsehoods on Facebook,
the firm has said it will implement a series of measures:

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  • no new political ads will be accepted in the week before the election
  • posts claiming people will get Covid-19 if they take part in the vote will be removed
  • information labels will be attached to posts seeking to delegitimise the outcome of the election
  • 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, such as QAnon.

Thousands of Facebook groups associated with these movements had already been removed, he said.

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