Facebook will ban new political ads a week before the election

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Facebook will ban new political ads a week before the election
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill October 23, 2019 in Washington, DC.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Facebook says it will prohibit all new political ads in the week before the November 3 US presidential election.
  • The company has faced criticism over the way it handled the 2016 US election, when Russia used the social-media platform to wage a disinformation campaign.
  • Facebook says it will also remove misinformation about the pandemic and voting as well as any premature posts from candidates declaring victory.

Facebook says it will prevent any new political ads from running on its platform in the week leading up to the US presidential election on November 3.

The company said on Thursday that advertisers could reuse existing ads up until Election Day but that there would not be enough time to "contest new claims" made in new political or issue-based ads.

"In the week before the election, we won't accept new political or issue ads," the company wrote on Twitter. "Campaigns will still be able to run ads, like get out the vote efforts, but in the final days of an election there may not be time to contest new claims."

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The idea is to stop misinformation from spreading widely in the crucial final days before Americans are able to vote in person.

It is part of a set of wider measures Facebook is taking to boost voter turnout and avoid foreign election interference.

The company said it would delete posts with "clear misinformation" about COVID-19 and voting, as well as premature posts from any candidates declaring victory. It will promote "authoritative information" about how to vote at the top of the main Facebook site and Instagram, it said. It also said it would delete posts that might lead to voter suppression.

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The company also said it would limit message-forwarding on the Facebook Messenger messaging app to reduce the spread of misinformation among individuals or private groups. It has previously taken similar measures on WhatsApp.

Zuckerberg 'worried' about civil unrest

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post that he was "worried" about the increased risk of civil unrest in the US.

"This election is not going to be business as usual," he wrote. "We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy. That means helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest."

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Facebook will be keen to avoid a repeat of 2016's presidential election — for which it was heavily criticized — when Russia used the social network and other online platforms in an effort to sow discord and damage Hillary Clinton's candidacy.

The company earlier this week announced it had uncovered an operation on its site linked to a Russian organization that interfered with the 2016 election — the Internet Research Agency.

Facebook removed pages for a site called Peace Data that social-media experts at Graphika said was a Russian operation masquerading as a legitimate news site targeting "Democratic Socialists, environmentalists, and disgruntled Democrats." The site successfully recruited progressive US journalists to write about a range of issues.

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The 2020 election is shaping up to be a contentious battle. President Donald Trump has hinted that he may not accept the election outcome and ensure a peaceful transition of power. "I have to see, look, I have to see, I'm not just going to say yes, I'm not going to say no, and I didn't last time either," he said in a July interview with Fox News.

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