Facebook bans political ads before US election as Zuckerberg warns of ‘civil unrest’

Facebook says it will stop accepting political advertisements in the week before the US election, as its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg warned of “an increased risk of civil unrest across the country”.

Explaining the move, Mr Zuckerberg said: “This election is not going to be business as usual. We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy.”

He said he “generally” believed that “the best antidote to bad speech is more speech, but in the final days of an election there may not be enough time to contest new claims”.

In preparation of this, Facebook is going to “block new political and issue ads during the final week of the campaign”.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg
Image:Mark Zuckerberg warns of an increased risk of civil unrest

“So in the week before the election, we won’t accept new political or issue ads,” Mr Zuckerberg continued, although political and issue ads that had already been running will be allowed to continue.

He said that Facebook was taking steps to encourage voter turn-out as well as tackle misinformation and prepare for candidates prematurely declaring the results.

In particular he warned that the coronavirus pandemic, which was likely to result in an increased number of people voting by mail, could mean delays to vote counting.

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“Many experts are predicting that we may not have a final result on election night,” he wrote.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 05: U.S. Postmaster General Louis Dejoy arrives at a meeting at the office of Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the U.S. Capitol August 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Negotiations between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for an agreement on how to move forward on a new relief package to help people and businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic continue today at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

US post ‘choked’ to ‘undermine confidence’

“It’s important that we prepare for this possibility in advance and understand that there could be a period of intense claims and counter-claims as the final results are counted.

“This could be a very heated period, so we’re preparing the following policies to help in the days and weeks after voting ends,” he said.

Facebook will be putting a Voting Information Centre panel at the top of both Facebook and Instagram “almost every day until the election” which will include video tutorials on postal voting and information on registration deadlines.

This panel will also “prepare people for the possibility that it may take a while to get official results [which] will help people understand that there is nothing illegitimate about not having a result on election night”.

In July, Donald Trump refused to state that he would accept the result of the election as he dismissed the validity of polls which showed him behind the Democratic candidate Joe Biden, prompting concerns he and his supporters would not comply with the results.

The US president has previously been sanctioned by Facebook and Twitter for posting false information relating to postal votes, and yesterday encouraged supporters in North Carolina to vote twice in the November election to ensure their ballot is counted.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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