Facebook is doing some disaster planning for the days and weeks after the election, given that all signs point to Donald Trump attempting to hold on to power by questioning the results of the election — should he, god willing, lose.
It may be that Trump will be so trounced that any whining he does after losing the election will be laughable even to his supporters. But the divisions in our country remain stark and scary, and it's anybody's guess what will happen if the election is at all close this time around, with Trump having started his own misinformation campaign about mail-in voting months ago — which, btw, Facebook initially refused fact-check or question, before reversing that decision.
But Facebook is now reportedly preparing for the near-inevitability that Trump will not go quietly, and the company is bragging to the New York Times all about it in an effort to convince us, once again, that it doesn't always kowtow to Trump and placate conservatives for business reasons.
Mark Zuckerberg already gave an interview to the Times in which he discussed "getting people ready for the fact that there’s a high likelihood that it takes days or weeks to count this — and there’s nothing wrong or illegitimate about that." Likely high numbers of mail-in ballots mean the potential for a lengthy vote-counting period that — as San Franciscans should be familiar with by now — could last a week or more after Election Night.
NBC News President Noah Oppenheim told the Times that his organization is trying to remain above the panic, saying, "We don’t want to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of chaos and confusion or suggest somehow that that’s a preordained outcome."
But in that period of time between Election Night and the final tally of votes, the president and his cohort could do a lot of damage on social media to erode the public's confidence in the election process, or in the legitimacy of one or several states' vote counts.
Trump will likely spend that time tweeting in ALL CAPS every ten minutes, and doing everything he can to stay in office by influencing public opinion, regardless of whether there is anything wrong with the vote-counting process. As former Facebook exec turned internet security expert Alex Stamos tells the Times, "We don’t have experience with that in the United States."
Much like everything with Trump's history-defying presidency, any nightmare scenario is more than possible.
In an early-August report about a Facebook employee who was allegedly fired for collecting evidence that right-wing pages on the platform were getting preferential treatment, BuzzFeed reported on an internal meeting at Facebook in which Zuckerberg was asked by employees to address how the company would handle a situation in which Trump questioned the legitimacy of the election. Zuckerberg said that the company would be entering "unprecedented territory with the president saying some of the things that he's saying that I find quite troubling."
Right. So Facebook will be stuck having to deal with an uncontrollable torrent of noise that could further undermine our democracy, and once again we have Zuckerberg spewing mealy-mouthed bullshit like, "We're thinking through what policy may be appropriate here," and "This is obviously going to be a sensitive thing to work through."
The Times reports that the company is contemplating a "kill switch" that turns off all political ads on November 3, in the event that the election results are not abundantly clear. But that only prevents Trump's camp from using ads to sway public opinion. He can still use Facebook and Twitter posts, and those by proxies, to question the election results for days or weeks, and encourage armed rebellion among his most ardent and batshit supporters.
Facebook has already had blood on its hands with racially and ethnically motivated violence in other countries stemming from conspiracies spread on its network. What happens when that violence happens right here in the U.S. because we have a narcissist in charge who'd rather see the country burn than leave office?
Brace yourselves. Also, a note to Jack Dorsey: Delete his account.