Facebook Inc executives are preparing for the possibility that results for the US general election in November won’t be clear enough to declare winners immediately in some contests, increasing the likelihood that misinformation may spike on its social networks in the hours and days following the vote.
The company has been conducting security prevention exercises to plan for different election-night scenarios, including those in which election results aren’t definitive as a result of more mail-in ballots, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, on a call with journalists on Aug 13.
"It looks increasingly like we may not have results on election night,” he added. "It’s critical to ensure that in that period of uncertainty we can get accurate information out to voters.”
Facebook has said it’s prioritising blocking information on its platform that misleads users about voting and the election process. In 2016, the company’s networks were used by foreign actors to spread disinformation and sow discord among US voters, and it’s also been criticised for a current policy of not fact-checking political advertising.
On Aug 13, the company launched a voting information hub, which will include links to help people register to vote before the election, and will host "accurate” voting information on election night and in the days afterward, Gleicher said. Facebook hasn’t said where the election results will come from, but it also plans to include posts in that hub that explain the vote-counting process.
"One of the things we’ve found is that efforts to spread disinformation exploit people’s uncertainty about how the process is supposed to work,” he said. "Showing people proactive authoritative information is one of the best ways to counter misinformation.”
Gleicher said that the impact of Covid-19 has made this election much more unpredictable. The expected increase in mail-in voting because of the pandemic means that many ballots may be received and processed days after the Nov 3 election, delaying results. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that mail-in ballots will lead to widespread fraud, suggesting he may choose to dispute the results.
Facebook is not alone in its concern over election-related confusion. Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google said they will also work to present accurate voting information to users in the run-up to Election Day. – Bloomberg
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