Facebook will ban new political ads for the week leading up to Election Day, Nov. 3, and remove posts that try to suppress or discourage voting, the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday.
The measures also aim to prevent campaigns and their supporters from making premature claims of victory, a situation some Democrats have described as a doomsday scenario.
The announcement came as part of a series of steps to address concerns about how Facebook could be used to manipulate the election, and included a warning from Zuckerberg about potential unrest around the United States related to the election.
“The U.S. 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,” he wrote in a note to staff members. “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.”
Facebook's move comes amid growing fears that President Donald Trump and his supporters will use social media to spread evidence-free claims of voter fraud and cast doubt on mail-in votes, which are likely to delay the final results for several days.
“This election is not going to be business as usual,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Since the pandemic means that many of us will be voting by mail, and since some states may still be counting valid ballots after election day, many experts are predicting that we may not have a final result on election night.”
“It's important that we prepare for this possibility in advance and understand that there could be a period of intense claims and counterclaims as the final results are counted,” he added. “This could be a very heated period.”
The new steps also come after Facebook's hesitance to take more aggressive action on misinformation spread by Trump has made the company and Zuckerberg the target of heated criticism, including from within the company.
While Facebook has declined to take more aggressive action, such as Twitter's ban on all political ads, the company has made a series of changes in recent months including allowing users to opt out of political ads.