Facebook is to enforce a temporary ban on political ads following the US presidential election, as it braces for a contentious night that may not end with a definitive winner. Stealing itself for the coming storm a blog post read: “We plan to temporarily stop running all social issue, electoral or political ads in the US after the polls close on 3 November, to reduce opportunities for confusion or abuse."
Facebook widens its political ad ban
That measure was widely considered to be insufficient given the degree of animosity in American politics today. The outcry prompted a follow-up decree from Zuckerberg that the network would ban any advertising that sought to ‘delegitimise’ the vote.
Sensing a looming PR disaster comparable to that of 2016, Facebook has now gone even further by banning any social, electoral and political ads until further notice after the vote, in anticipation of a prolonged period of uncertainty post-count.
So what’s Facebook doing?
The changes are billed as a mechanism for Facebook to ‘protect the integrity’ of American democracy by ‘fighting foreign interference, misinformation and voter suppression.’
No timeline has been given for any lifting of the ad ban although Facebook has pledged to notify advertisers when the policy is lifted.
Facebook has also vowed to remove any exhortations for people to engage in poll-watching that employ ‘militarised language’ or which imply an unspoken aim of intimidating voters.
The social media giant will also take a dim view of any candidate or parties making premature claims of victory in advance of any official vote, pledging to annotate any such assertions with verified sources.
Among Facebook's targets is the pro-Trump QAnon group which has been described as a ‘militarised social movement’.
It is uncertain if this action will be sufficient to head-off election chaos however with president Donald Trump has already set the tone by refusing to commit to a peaceful transition of power.
Democratic challenger Joe Biden has been vocal in criticising Facebook for failing to act against fake news articles around mail-in voting, castigating its moderation policies as a ‘regression’.