During the fall of 2019, Mark Zuckerberg decided that Facebook as a platform will not be fact-checking political ads. Instead, he emphasized his stance on allowing free speech on Facebook in regards to the upcoming election. Zuckerberg believes that voters should be able to discern misleading information for themselves, and that they are able to make informed decisions on who to vote for. Zuck and Co. established that Facebook will not be a mediator of the political debate, but will allow for users to make decisions based on information that they have been presented. However, Facebook is outlining a range of measures to protect users from misinformation, voter manipulation, and encourage digital literacy.
Improved Detection Measures and Policies
Facebook is making adjustments to its inauthentic behavior policy, and working to detect accounts that share misinformation. These are groups that post content in hopes to influence the election. By improving detection efforts, they hope to stop content with misinformation that has the potential to manipulate voters.
Facebook is set to launch “Facebook Protect” which adds an extra layer of security to accounts of those elected officials, candidates, and their staff. These individuals have the opportunity to register their account in Facebook protect. If signed up, they will be required to turn on two-factor authentication, and all accounts will be monitored for potential hacking.
Page Transparency Tools
Facebook is also adding to its existing page transparency tools. This new addition allows Facebook users to identify an organization that manages a page. Users can now understand where a page is coming from, especially pages containing political content. If a page is concealing its identity, then Facebook will require them to complete the verification process or they will take down their posts and ban them from the platform.
Facebook is now taking the initiative to label outlets that are under the control of their governing bodies. State-controlled media cherry picks what media that they post, which has the potential to be problematic on the platform. Facebook is now enforcing higher transparency standards to combat this. This labeling process will begin to roll out in November.
Political Ads Reporting Options
Facebook is adding a spend option to the political ads reporting tool available to users. This allows for insight into where the ads have been run and the ability to track US presidential candidate’s campaign spend. Facebook is also working towards adding the option to download the candidate’s ad library, pull daily snapshots, and track day-to-day changes.
Labels on False Information
In an effort to hinder the spread of misinformation on the platform, Facebook is making false information tags more prominent. According to Facebook, labels will be shown on top of false or partially false photos, videos, including Instagram stories and will link to a fact-checker assessment. This applies to all content, but political ads will not be fact-checked. There is also a pop-up that will appear on Instagram, like it does on Facebook, if an individual wants to share the post. The pop-up will include clarifying information in a last attempt to stop the misinformation from being spread.
Banning Ads that Aim to Stop Voting
Facebook is implementing tools and policies that will now ban all ads that try to stop people from voting. This policy bans paid ads that imply that voting is “useless”, “meaningless,” or explicitly tells people not to vote. Facebook released this policy in 2018, but is taking extra measures to crack down on these types of ads for the upcoming election.
In order to encourage individuals to make informed decisions and decipher misleading and false information, Facebook has put forth $2 million in support of digital literacy. Since last November, Facebook has been putting forth efforts, including digital education initiatives, in order to promote a better understanding of digital. These projects include training programs, pilot programs for media literacy and online safety, public events, and training events for first-time voters. Digital literacy helps online users to fact-check the content presented to them and to protect personal information.