Facebook curbs political ads - for 7 days before US election

FILE - This March 29, 2018 file photo, shows the logo for social media giant Facebook at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. With just two months left until the U.S. presidential election, Facebook says it is taking additional steps to encourage voting, minimize misinformation and reduce the likelihood of post-election civil unrest. The company said Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020,  it will restrict new political ads in the week before the election and remove posts that convey misinformation about COVID-19 and voting.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
FILE - This March 29, 2018 file photo, shows the logo for social media giant Facebook at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. With just two months left until the U.S. presidential election, Facebook says it is taking additional steps to encourage voting, minimize misinformation and reduce the likelihood of post-election civil unrest. The company said Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, it will restrict new political ads in the week before the election and remove posts that convey misinformation about COVID-19 and voting. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) (AP)

Bracing for a contentious election with no immediate results and possible “civil unrest,” Facebook is enacting a host of measures to ensure its platform is not used to sow chaos and spread misinformation before, during and after the U.S. presidential election.

But it's not clear the changes are enough.

The company said Thursday it will restrict new political ads in the week before the election and remove posts that convey misinformation about COVID-19 and voting. It will also attach links with official results to posts by candidates and campaigns that prematurely declare victory.

“This election is not going to be business as usual. We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on Thursday. “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.”

Some activists hailed the new policies but said the onus will be on Facebook to enforce them. And others were skeptical that they'll really make a difference.

“Voting starts in North Carolina tomorrow. Election Day isn’t in two months, it’s tomorrow and every day after. Which means voters in that state and many others that vote early will be subject to months of dishonest ads on Facebook’s platform," said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of UltraViolet, a women's organization critical of Facebook.

She called the announcement a “PR stunt designed to distract from the fact that Facebook is the single biggest vector of dangerous misinformation and voter suppression campaigns in the United States.”

Siva Vaidhyanathan, a Facebook expert at the University of Virginia, said the company again proved itself incapable of effectively snuffing out dangerous misinformation last week when it failed to remove postings by right-wing militia organizers urging supporters with rifles to converge on Kenosha, Wisconsin.