(CN) — Facebook announced Wednesday it will ban political ads on its platform after the polls close on Election Day, a move that signals it does not want to be used as a tool by politicians casting doubt or sowing confusion about election results.
“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 Nov. 3, to reduce opportunities for confusion or abuse,” said Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president for integrity, in a blog post Wednesday.
The plan to cease political ads after polls close to prevent candidates from sowing doubt on the integrity of the election is notable since Facebook has diverged from other social media platforms in refusing to ban political ads.
Last year, Facebook’s vice president of communications Nick Clegg said the company would not be in the business of policing political communications by candidates, advocates and activists. The company also said its platform is vital for unknown candidates to organize and disseminate their messages to a broader audience and banning political ads would hurt the democratic process.
But the company appears to be eager to avert the type of damaging fallout that emerged in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, when Facebook was accused of abetting Russian disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining the integrity of U.S. elections.
Along with banning political ads after the polls close, the company said it would take down posts that encouraged a militarized approach to watching the polls. Using words like “army” or “battle” as it relates to observing polls on Election Day will be removed, according to Facebook’s vice president of content policy Monika Bickert.
That new policy comes as President Donald Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, repeatedly cast aspersions on mail-in voting and encouraging his supporters to show up to polling places and watch for potential voter fraud.
His son, Donald Trump Jr., posted a video to several social media platforms including Facebook, in which he encouraged Trump supporters to enlist in an “army of Trump election security.”
Had the video been posted under the new protocols, it would have been removed, Bickert said.
Facebook also previewed how it would handle determining who won elections during a process in which the vast number of mail-in ballots due to concerns about voting in person amid a pandemic is likely to make calling the election on Nov. 3 impossible.
“If a candidate or party declares premature victory before a race is called by major media outlets, we will add more specific information in the notifications that counting is still in progress and no winner has been determined,” Rosen said.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told lawmakers this year that his company has spent billions of dollars on setting up internal operations aimed at identifying attempted election interference or fraudulent statements.
The company said Wednesday it remains committed to policing its platform.
“We also continue to coordinate with state attorneys general and other federal, state, and local law enforcement officials responsible for election protection,” Rosen said. “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.”
Critics continue to maintain Facebook hasn’t done enough and lags behind its competitors.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey committed to banning all political ads earlier this year.
“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Dorsey said at the time.
Google also moved last month to ban political ads for at least a week after the polls close, meaning Facebook is one of the last platforms to commit to the policy.
Also, it is 27 days until the election and many voters have already submitted their ballots.
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