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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook says it plans to temporarily stop running all social issue, electoral, or political ads in the U.S. after the polls close on November 3.

Why it matters: The notice comes two weeks after Google informed its advertisers that it would implement a similar rule.

Details: Facebook says the goal of the new policy is to reduce opportunities for public confusion about results or messages that misinform the public about election outcomes.

  • Facebook says advertisers can expect this ban to last for a week, although the timeline is subject to change.
  • It says it will notify advertisers when the new policy is lifted. (For context, Google says it will take at least 7 days for its political ad ban to be lifted after election day, thanks to the likelihood that election results will take longer to tally thanks to pandemic-driven absentee ballots.)

The company says it will also update its policies to ban implicit calls by users to engage in malicious "poll watching" — visiting a polling place to intimidate voters.

  • In the past, says Monika Bickert, Facebook's VP of content policy, Facebook had banned explicit calls for such behavior.
  • It's now banning posts that "use militarized language" or "suggest that the goal is to intimidate, exert control, or display power over election officials or voters."
  • Bickert says her team will be looking at this type of content and making decisions about it. She says Facebook has been looking at this policy update for many months.

The big picture: Facebook has incrementally made updates to its political advertising policies leading up to election day.

  • In September, the company said it would not allow ads that prematurely claim victory or attempt to delegitimize the election.
  • Earlier that month, it said it would place restrictions on new political and issue ads the final week of the campaign,

On Wednesday, Facebook's VP of integrity Guy Rosen explained why the new policy has been introduced so late and after the company said it likely wouldn't be amending any more policies related to the election.

  • "We're still going through planning and understanding of different scenarios drawing on learnings from different elections, and scenario planning continues to be underway. We thought it would be appropriate to introduce new measures as we head into the final stretch and we think about the period after the election itself."

Be smart: Civil rights groups have argued that Facebook has not been quick enough to take action on misinformation and abuse on its platform compared to its rivals.

  • Facebook has pushed back on that, saying that it's "simply untrue."
  • In Wednesday's announcements, Facebook aimed to keep peace with those groups, saying, "We thank the civil rights experts and community members who continue to help us understand trends in this area and we look forward to continuing to work with them."

Go deeper

Nov 19, 2020 - Technology

Facebook says very few people actually see hate speech on its platform

Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook said it took action on 22.1 million pieces of hate speech content to its platform globally last quarter and about 6.5 million pieces of hate speech content on Instagram. On both platforms, it says about 95% of that hate speech was proactively identified and stopped by artificial intelligence.

Details: In total, the company says that there are 10–11 views of hate speech for every 10,000 views of content uploaded to the site globally — or .1%. It calls this metric — how much problematic content it doesn't catch compared to how much is reported and removed — "prevalence."

Nov 20, 2020 - Technology

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Misinformation flood control

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden will enter office with no fast fixes at hand to stem a tide of online misinformation that has shaped election-year politics and, unchecked, could undermine his presidency.

Where it stands: Election and coronavirus misinformation spreading widely on digital platforms has already done serious damage to the U.S., and it's bound to go into overdrive as the Biden administration starts enacting its agenda.

America's Chinese communities struggle with online disinformation

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Disinformation has proliferated on Chinese-language websites and platforms like WeChat that are popular with Chinese speakers in the U.S., just as it has on English-language websites.

Why it matters: There are fewer fact-checking sites and other sources of reliable information in Chinese, making it even harder to push back against disinformation.

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