Facebook to flag posts from politicians, including Trump, that break its rules

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Facebook has said it will flag all “newsworthy” posts from politicians that break its rules, including those from US President Donald Trump.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously refused to take action against Mr Trump’s posts suggesting that postal voting will lead to voter fraud, saying that people deserved to hear unfiltered statements from political leaders. Twitter, by contrast, put a “get the facts” label on them.

“The policies we’re implementing today are designed to address the reality of the challenges our country is facing and how they’re showing up across our community,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page announcing the changes.

Three weeks ago, I committed to reviewing our policies ahead of the 2020 elections. That work is ongoing, but today I…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, June 26, 2020

Facebook is also banning false claims intended to discourage voting, such as stories about federal agents checking people’s legal status at polling stations. The company also said it is increasing its enforcement capacity to remove false claims about local polling conditions in the 72 hours before the US election.

Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Centre for Civic Media, said the changes are a “reminder of how powerful Facebook may be in terms of spreading disinformation during the upcoming election”.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump will not be immune from Facebook’s new policy (AP/Evan Vucci)

“If every post that mentions voting links, people will start ignoring those links. If they’re targeted to posts that say things like ‘Police will be checking warrants and unpaid traffic tickets at polls’ – a classic voter suppression disinformation tactic – and clearly mark posts as disinformation, they might be useful,” he said.

But Mr Zuckerman noted that Facebook “has a history of trying hard not to alienate right-leaning users, and given how tightly Mr Trump has aligned himself with voter-suppressing misinformation, it seems likely that Facebook will err on the side of non-intrusive and ignorable labels, which would minimise impact of the campaign.”

Earlier, shares of Facebook and Twitter dropped sharply after the the giant company behind brands such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soap said it will halt US advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at least until the end of the year.

Unilever logo
Unilever said it would be halting its advertising on Facebook (Unilever)

Shares of both Facebook and Twitter fell by roughly 7% following Unilever’s announcement.

The company, which is based in the Netherlands and Britain, joins a raft of other advertisers pulling back from online platforms. Facebook in particular has been the target of an escalating movement to withhold advertising dollars to pressure it to do more to prevent racist and violent content from being shared on its platform.

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