Mark Zuckerberg tells "Axios on HBO" that Facebook is imposing new election rules to deter use of the platform to spread of misinformation and even violence, and to help voters see the results as "legitimate and fair."

Driving the news: The new measures, announced Thursday, include throwing a flag on posts by candidates who claim premature victory, and forbidding new ads within a week of Election Day.

  • "There is, unfortunately, I think, a heightened risk of civil unrest in the period between voting and a result being called," Zuckerberg told Axios' Mike Allen.
  • "I think we need to be doing everything that we can to reduce the chances of violence or civil unrest in the wake of this election."

The big picture: Facebook is under fire from all sides.

  • New York Times opinion columnist Charlie Warzel writes: "Facebook is too big for democracy. ... Its size and power creates instability, the answer to which, according to Facebook, is to give the company additional authority."

Between the lines: President Trump has repeatedly suggested that the heavy use of voting by mail this year, driven by the pandemic, could lead to a "rigged election" — despite the long history of voting by mail in the U.S. without fraud.

Zuckerberg said that since the outcome may not be known on election night, Facebook and the media need to start "preparing the American people that there's nothing illegitimate about this election," even if it takes "additional days or even weeks to make sure that all of the votes are counted."

Among Facebook's "New Steps to Protect the U.S. Elections":

  • "We will attach an informational label to content that seeks to delegitimize the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods, for example, by claiming that lawful methods of voting will lead to fraud."
  • "If any candidate or campaign tries to declare victory before the final results are in, we’ll add a label to their posts directing people to the official results from Reuters and the National Election Pool."

Our thought bubble, from Axios managing editor Scott Rosenberg: If Trump decides to claim victory on the basis of an incomplete election-night count, adding a neutral-sounding "more information" link to his post will hardly make a difference.

The big picture: Facebook was already under pressure to show that it has learned the lessons of the 2016 presidential election. Zuckerberg has acknowledged the platform was caught on its "back foot" in fighting the spread of misinformation.

  • Now, experts are worried about the additional danger of voters suspecting fraud — possibly encouraged by social media — if the results aren't called on election night because of the heavier use of mail ballots.

The bottom line: "The country is very charged right now, "Zuckerberg said. "So I think regardless of what we do, there's some chance that this [unrest] happens across the country. I just want to make sure that we do our part to not contribute to it."

The full "Axios on HBO" interview with Mark Zuckerberg will air Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 11 p.m. ET/PT on all HBO platforms.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Christopher Wray: FBI has not seen evidence of national voter fraud effort by mail

FBI Director Christopher Wray responded to a question on the security of mail-in voting to the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday by saying that the agency has "not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it's by mail or otherwise."

Why it matters: President Trump has ramped up his claims, without evidence, that widespread mail-in voting would rig the 2020 election against him. On Wednesday, after declining to say whether he would commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election to Joe Biden, Trump said that "the ballots are out of control."

Michelle Obama: "Don't listen to people" who say voting is "rigged"

Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Glamour

Former first lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday urged people to vote in spite of conspiracy theories and disinformation "about the validity of our election process," per CNN.

Between the lines: Officials are sounding the alarm about the heightened potential for disinformation in an unusual election year. That comes as President Trump has stoked fears of election fraud, telling "Axios on HBO" in August that "lots of things can happen" with voting by mail if the presidential race isn't decided on election night.

Sanders: "This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy"

Photo: BernieSanders.com

In an urgent appeal on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said President Trump presented "unique threats to our democracy" and detailed a plan to ensure the election results will be honored and that voters can cast their ballots safely.

Driving the news: When asked yesterday whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, Trump would not, and said: "We're going to have to see what happens."

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