Admitting that the platform could play a role in destroying democracy as we know it, Facebook says it will limit or restrict new political ads in the week leading up to the election in November. Also it says it will continue to police misinformation — something it has never fully succeeded in doing — and posts aimed at voter suppression. And Mark Zuckerberg says they'll do their best to show people factual election data if and when a candidate (TRUMP!) decides to declare victory early on Facebook.
Barring locking him in a room with no phone and no internet for the next two months, there is no way that Donald Trump isn't going to make this the ugliest and most stressful two months that the American populace has lived through in many decades, if not ever. Facebook is one of the tools — but certainly not the only one — that he and his campaign minions will be harnessing to pull out all the stops to bring him victory.
Twitter has banned political advertising altogether, and we haven't seen too much blowback or scandal around that in recent months. Facebook, kowtowing as it always had to insecure conservatives and Trump himself, has continued to profit off the ads being bought by both presidential campaigns.
In a move that caused Facebook's stock price to tumble today, the company made the half-hearted gesture of saying it will "block" all "new" political and issue ads in the week leading up to the election — though, as CNN notes, campaigns will still get to run whatever ads they already have running, and re-target them as they please. The company will also allegedly be stepping up efforts to combat misinformation, both about the candidates and about the voting process.
Mark Zuckerberg announced the move in in a lengthy Facebook post Thursday morning in which he said, "I'm concerned about the challenges people could face when voting," and "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."
Zuckerberg previously expressed his anxiety about the election not being decided in the day or so after election day, and what we all know that will mean for the sitting president and his endless stream of bullshit on social media. And the company had been contemplating a "kill switch" for political advertising if this happens — which this latest announced move sort of, maybe, reflects.
Today, he writes, "We're partnering with Reuters and the National Election Pool to provide authoritative information about election results. We'll show this in the Voting Information Center so it's easily accessible, and we'll notify people proactively as results become available. Importantly, if any candidate or campaign tries to declare victory before the results are in, we'll add a label to their post educating that official results are not yet in and directing people to the official results."
Zuckerberg also says that he and his wife Priscilla have personally "donated $300 million to non-partisan organizations supporting states and local counties in strengthening our voting infrastructure."
This is all well and good, but we still have the president's preferred platform, Twitter — they've yet to delete his account — and there's nothing stopping him from going on Fox News morning and night and crowing about his fictional victory there. And does anyone still have any faith that Trump voters — or a disturbingly large portion of the country — actually care about facts or fact-checking?
As Recode writes today, Facebook and other platforms are "built in a way that lets bad actors spread lies easily, and makes it almost impossible to rein them in. The bug is the feature." Thus Facebook's half-measures are, once again, likely going to accomplish little.
Also, our attorney general sat on CNN today and claimed he "wasn't familiar" with state laws that bar people from voting twice, and further bolstered Trump's claims that mail-in voting is not secure.
Pray to whatever deity or spiritual force you like, because if Biden doesn't get an obvious majority in multiple swing states, we are so, so fucked.
Photo: Kon Karampelas