Facebook “Will reject all political ads that declare a successful candidate before the official results have been confirmed”, at announced Wednesday 23 September a company spokesperson. While the results of the US presidential election may not be known until much delay, due to the disruption caused by the pandemic and the longer count of postal votes, many observers fear that Donald Trump or his supporters claim victory until the final results are known.
Mark Zuckerberg had already announced on September 3: if “A candidate or a party tries to declare itself winner before the results are final, we will add a mention to their messages stating that the official results are not yet known, and redirecting readers to these results”. It was not about advertisements. Facebook will use data collected by Reuters news agency and the National Election Pool, a coalition of media outlets (ABC News, CBS News, CNN, and NBC News) to establish which results the social network will consider “Reliable”.
The Facebook CEO also announced that he would be banned from posting new political ads during the week before the vote. A measure considered largely timid, since it does not concern advertisements created before that date, which can continue to be broadcast even on voting day – unlike what prevails in France and other European countries, political ads are permitted by law throughout the campaign in the United States.
Facebook has repeatedly tightened its rules on political advertising in the United States, but deceptive ads continue to run there, funded notably by Republican influence groups, but also by groups supporting the Democrats. However, they represent a small proportion of the advertisements disseminated, objects the company, whose advertising transparency tool is much more comprehensive than those offered by Google or Twitter.
Showdown over social media accountability
The changes come as the government and Donald Trump continue an intense crusade against social media, including Facebook, which they accuse, without evidence, of unduly promoting left-wing messages.
On Wednesday, the President of the United States threatened to take “Concrete measures”. In addition to several ongoing proceedings for abuse of dominance, the Trump administration has embarked on a project to reform the “Section 230”, the legal text which allows social networks not to be criminally responsible for the content published by Internet users on their platforms, while respecting a few conditions.
Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he wants to reform this text to put an end to the “Political bias” pro-democracy of social networks that he denounces. An assertion that is not confirmed by any serious study, on the contrary: Facebook's own tools show that the most popular content on the platform is overwhelmingly conservative. So much so that the social network regularly finds itself at odds between its employees, mostly on the left, and its users. “One of the things that we don't talk about much in the company is that … the community we serve is, on average, a little more ideologically conservative than most of our employees.”Mark Zuckerberg said at a general meeting with his employees in mid-June, the content of which was revealed on Wednesday by the site The Verge.