Facebook Has a New Plan For Fighting Voter Suppression Tactics—And For Once It Involves Deleting Lies
Facebook‘s ongoing crusade against election-related abuse of its platform will involve the removal of some (but not all) disinformation that’s designed to suppress voting.
The company told Reuters that it would ban false information about voting requirements. It will also flag for moderation reports that may aim to keep people away from polling stations by alleging violence or long queues—if the reports are shown to be false, they will be suppressed in people’s news feeds, but they won’t be deleted.
Facebook (FB) generally does not remove falsehoods, even if they are demonstrated, so nixing false information about voting requirements is a notable step. It banned lies about voting locations a couple years back, but this latest move involves exaggerations about voter identification requirements.
In the wake of the mass disinformation campaigns that accompanied the 2016 election, Facebook has come under a great deal of pressure over its role in combatting the problem. It has partnered with think tanks in an attempt to better spot propaganda; it has removed “inauthentic” profiles that were aiming to spread misinformation; and it has sponsored research on the overall problem.
But, while the company is willing to suppress certain kinds of “fake news,” it won’t delete the vast majority of it.
“We don’t believe we should remove things from Facebook that are shared by authentic people if they don’t violate those community standards, even if they are false,” News Feed product manager Tessa Lyons told Reuters.
Facebook’s cybersecurity policy chief, Nathaniel Gleicher, also told the news service that the company is considering banning posts that linked to hacked material, as Twitter (TWTR) recently did. As shown with the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016 by Russian operatives, this technique can form part of a coordinated effort to sway elections. However, the dissemination of some hacked materials is in the public interest, making this a tricky tightrope for social media firms to negotiate.