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Facebook to remove posts that aim to intimidate voters ahead of US election – CNET

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Facebook says it’s taking new steps to safeguard the US election.

Image by Pixabay; illustration by CNET

This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET’s coverage of the run-up to voting in November.

Facebook said Wednesday that it will take down content that seeks to intimidate voters, including posts that encourage people to engage in unauthorized poll watching. The company will also direct users to accurate election results through notifications and labels after the polls close in November.

Social networks, including Facebook, have been criticized for not doing enough to safeguard democracy after Russian trolls abused these platforms to sow discord among Americans during the 2016 US presidential election. Since then, the social network has taken more steps to prepare for US elections, such as creating an online hub for voter information, pulling down fake accounts and displaying warning labels on posts that contain misinformation. Still, politicians, celebrities and activists have been pressuring Facebook to do more to tackle misinformation. The company doesn’t send posts from politicians to third-party fact-checkers, a policy that’s continued to spark scrutiny this year. 

“We believe we have done more than any other company over the past four years to help secure the integrity of elections,” Facebook’s Vice President of Integrity, Guy Rosen, said during a press conference Wednesday. Rosen said the company has been planning for different scenarios that might happen during the presidential election.

On election night, which is on Nov. 3, Facebook will notify users on Facebook and Instagram and display labels under a candidate’s posts that direct users to the social network’s Voting Information Center. If a candidate or party declares victory before a major media outlet calls a race, Facebook will let users know via notification that the votes are still being counted and a winner hasn’t been declared yet. If a candidate contests the results of the election, Facebook will show the name of the winner in the notifications displayed on the main social network and on Instagram. Posts from presidential candidates will also be labeled with a notice that displays the winner’s name and a link to the Voting Information Center.

Facebook will also temporarily stop running ads in the US about the election, social issues and politics after the polls close. The company will let advertisers know when this pause on ads gets lifted.

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Facebook will notify users that votes are still being counted on election night.

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Facebook said it will remove content that aims to intimidate voters, including posts that use militarized language such as words like “battle” or “army” to encourage people to engage in poll watching. The policy applies to any new content, but not retroactively. Donald Trump Jr. has posted videos encouraging people to join an elections security “army” for his father President Donald Trump, who’s running for reelection.

Monika Bickert, who oversees content policy at Facebook, said this type of video would be taken down moving forward. Content moderators will have to consider the context of the posts.

“For us, this is really about spotting when people are trying to discourage or stop others from voting,” she said.

The social network, which uses a mix of technology and workers to moderate content, said that between March and September it has pulled down more than 120,000 US posts on Facebook and Instagram that violate its rules against voter interference. Facebook has also displayed warning notices on more than 150 million pieces of content that contained misinformation debunked by fact-checkers.

“That doesn’t mean that we consider our work complete,” Bickert said. “We know that we will miss things and that our enforcement won’t be perfect.”

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