Facebook to ban content that seeks to intimidate voters

It will also ban political ads once the polls for the US elections close on November 3.

Facebook announced in a blog post on Wednesday that it will remove any content that seeks to intimidate voters as part of its preparations for the upcoming US presidential election.

The social networking giant already has a ban on posts that call for "coordinated interference" or bringing weapons to polling locations, but the expanded policy will see more focus be placed on addressing concerns around voter intimidation.

"[Facebook will] remove calls for people to engage in poll watching when those calls use militarized language or suggest that the goal is to intimidate, exert control, or display power over election officials or voters," Facebook VP of integrity Guy Rosen said. 

The new ban comes shortly after US President Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr, made a video encouraging people to join "Trump's Army" and guard polling locations. 

The Wednesday announcement also came with a handful of other updates, such as a temporary suspension of political ads on Facebook's platforms after the US election polls close on November 3. 

The decision to ban political ads after the closing of polls was made in a bid to reduce opportunities for confusion or abuse, according to Rosen.

Like the ban on content that intimidates voters, the ban on political ads is an expansion of a policy that was previously announced by Facebook. In the initial policy, released in September, Facebook said it would stop accepting new political ads in the week before the election. 

Facebook also said last month it would remove posts that claim people will contract coronavirus if they vote in-person, attach labels to content that tries to delegitimise the outcome of the election or claim election fraud, and block posts from candidates and campaigns that try to declare victory before official election results are available. 

This new focus on banning political ads is a shift from Facebook's previous stance where it had been hesitant towards banning political ads and ad targeting. At the start of the year, Facebook said it would not block political ads or limit ad targeting because "people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them".

Even as recently as last month, Facebook representatives told an Australian government committee that it did not believe it needed to fact-check political ads, saying it does the same as any media platform using, for example, a billboard promoting a particular political angle.

"There's no expectation that the company that enabled you to put that ad on that billboard had to put something on it saying, 'Hey, this information has been marked as false', so we apply exactly the same approach on our service when it comes to political advertising," the representatives said.

"We don't think it's right that we should be the arbiters of truth."

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