Facebook says that it is fighting disinformation with a range of new policies in the run-up to November’s presidential election …

The social network says that it is implementing the same message-forwarding limit in Facebook Messenger that it previously introduced in WhatsApp. Currently, you can forward a message to 150 contacts at once, which makes it very easy for hoax messages to spread quickly. In the future, it won’t be possible to forward a message to more than five people at a time. WhatsApp still goes further, however, as it reduced the five-person limit to just one person back in April.

Both messaging services use end-to-end encryption, meaning the company can’t fact-check the content as it can’t read messages, but limiting forwarding makes it less likely for hoax messages to propagate.

Facebook has also announced four specific election policies:

  • We won’t accept new political ads in the week before the election. 
  • We’ll remove posts that claim that people will get COVID-19 if they take part in voting, and we’ll attach a link to authoritative information about the coronavirus to posts that might use COVID-19 to discourage voting.
  • We will attach an informational label to content that seeks to delegitimize the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods, for example, by claiming that lawful methods of voting will lead to fraud. 
  • If any candidate or campaign tries to declare victory before the final results are in, we’ll add a label to their posts directing people to the official results from Reuters and the National Election Pool.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the reasons for the changes.

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. 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. 

This election is not going to be business as usual. We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy. That means helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest.

Facebook is already running the largest voting information campaign in American history — with a goal of helping 4 million people to register and then vote. In just three days, we already drove almost 24 million clicks to voter registration websites. Priscilla and I have also personally donated $300 million to non-partisan organizations supporting states and local counties in strengthening our voting infrastructure.

Today, we’re announcing additional steps we’re taking at Facebook to encourage voting, connect people with authoritative information, and fight misinformation. These changes reflect what we’ve learned from our elections work over the past four years and the conversations we’ve had with voting rights experts and our civil rights auditors:

However, many are criticizing the fact that Facebook still accepts political ads making claims it knows to be false.

Facebook will continue to allow politicians to run lies in ads through Election Day […]

Facebook (FB) will continue to allow campaigns to run ads bought before the final week. Those ads can still run through Election Day. And Zuckerberg made no indication that Facebook would change its policy of allowing politicians to lie in targeted ads, meaning political candidates will be able to run false ads on the platform up until election day.

Just to be clear about this: Facebook says it is concerned about misinformation influencing the election, but it will continue to accept money from politicians who want to tell lies in order to influence the election.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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