Facebook to Ban Posts Meant to Suppress Votes, Including ICE Agent Threats

In a Friday townhall and corresponding post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined new policies meant to combat posts on the social network that include misinformation intended to suppress voter turnout during the 2020 elections in the United States.

"I want to share some new policies to connect people with authoritative information about voting, crack down on voter suppression, and fight hate speech," Zuckerberg said, in a post with text closely tracking announcements the Facebook founder made during the public townhall video.

Zuckerbeg announced the creation of a Voting Information Center, which will be shown at the top of the Facebook and Instagram apps and will offer guidance regarding registration, voting by mail and early voting.

An update from our company town hall.

An update from our company town hall.

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, June 26, 2020

Facebook also revealed new measures that it claims will counter voter suppression disinformation on the platform, including the appending of a Voting Information Center link for "posts that discuss voting, including from politicians."

Additional steps include an expansion of the existing Facebook ban on content that "misleads people on when or how they can vote," including a ban on posts that falsely claim ICE agents are checking for immigration papers at polling places.

"We'll also remove any threats of coordinated interference, like someone saying, 'My friends and I will be doing our own monitoring of the polls to make sure only the right people vote,' which can be used to intimidate voters," Zuckerberg said.

The new policies will be enforced by an "Elections Operation Center" meant to "quickly respond and remove false claims about polling conditions in the 72 hours leading into election day."

Zuckerberg cited "feedback from the civil rights community" in the creation of the policies, specifically former director of the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union, Laura W. Murphy and Megan Cacace, who has served as counsel on multiple race discrimination cases as partner of the law firm Relman & Colfax.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying before the House Financial Services Committee regarding misleading political information in Washington D.C. in October, 2019. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Facebook will also be amending its policies regarding paid ads, which have been widely criticized because of the company's stance against fact-checking advertising from political entities, which has resulted in the widespread propagation of false information on the social network. A 2019 independent audit found that 90 percent or more of conservative ads regarding elections in the U.K. contained misleading information.

"Today we're prohibiting a wider category of hateful content in ads," Zuckerberg said. "Specifically, we're expanding our ads policy to prohibit claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others. We're also expanding our policies to better protect immigrants, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from ads suggesting these groups are inferior or expressing contempt, dismissal or disgust directed at them."

According to Zuckerberg, "there are no exceptions for politicians in any of the policies I'm announcing here today," though in some cases content deemed newsworthy will be left up with an appended warning.

Facebook has faced a spreading boycott from advertisers this week—including Verizon, Ben & Jerry's, Patagonia, Eddie Bauer, the North Face and Magnolia Pictures—who joined in response to what a coalition of civil rights groups describe as Facebook's "repeated failure to meaningfully address the vast proliferation of hate on its platforms."

"[Facebook] allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America in the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and so many others," the coalition of civil rights organizations—which includes the NAACP, Color of Change and Sleeping Giants—said in a statement.

Facebook also announced a voting information campaign, which includes the goal of registering 4 million people to vote.