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Worried about ‘civil unrest,’ Mark Zuckerberg explains Facebook’s temporary political ad ban

Facebook announced this morning that it won’t accept any new political ads for its platform a week before the 2020 election.

Worried about ‘civil unrest,’ Mark Zuckerberg explains Facebook’s temporary political ad ban
[Photo: courtesy of Facebook]

Facebook announced this morning that it won’t accept any new political ads, or issue new ones, for its platform a week before the 2020 election.

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The concern is that the ads will make claims about politicians or issues without enough time for journalists, fact-checkers, and others to scrutinize them.

“The US elections are just two months away, and with COVID-19 affecting communities across the country, I’m concerned about the challenges people could face when voting,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post. “I’m also worried that with our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or even weeks to be finalized, there could be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country.”

Ads that were already running can remain and advertisers can “adjust the targeting,” he added.

In contrast, last year, Twitter announced that it was banning all political ads.

Facebook also has announced that it will:

  • heavily promote its Voting Information Center, which includes details about voting by mail, registration deadlines, etc.
  • delete misinformation about voting with the help of election officials starting now, such as false details about polling conditions
  • limit forwarding on Messenger to curb the chance that incorrect or dangerous information goes viral
  • delete information that tries to suppress voting or mislead voters, like ones about being allowed to mail in a ballot three days after Election Day or about the risk of catching COVID-19 if you vote

The news comes against a backdrop marred by worries that foreign governments are working to influence the U.S. presidential election and comments by President Donald Trump and some in his political camp, questioning in advance the legitimacy of the election results.

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“We’ve voted during global pandemics before. We can do this. But it’s going to take a concerted effort by all of us—political parties and candidates, election authorities, the media and social networks, and ultimately voters as well—to live up to our responsibilities,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We all have a part to play in making sure that the democratic process works, and that every voter can make their voice heard where it matters most—at the ballot box.”

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