OAKLAND, California–Facebook said on Friday that it would flag all “noteworthy” posts by politicians who break its rules, including those of President Donald Trump.
The company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, had refused to take action against Trump’s posts, suggesting that postal ballots will lead to voter fraud, saying people deserved to hear unfiltered statements from political leaders. Twitter, on the other hand, put a “get the facts” label on them.
“The policies we are implementing today are designed to address the reality of the challenges that our country is facing and how they are appearing in our community,” wrote Zuckerberg on his Facebook page announcing the changes.
Zuckerberg said the social network is taking additional steps to combat election-related misinformation. In particular, the social network will begin adding new labels to all voting posts that will direct users to official information from state and local electoral authorities.
Facebook also prohibits false claims designed to discourage voting, such as stories about federal agents who check legal status at polling stations. The company also said it is increasing its enforcement capacity to remove false claims about local voting conditions in the 72 hours before the US election.
Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Civic Media Center, said the changes are a “reminder of how powerful Facebook can be in terms of spreading misinformation during the next election.”
He said that the voting labels will depend on the quality of Facebook’s artificial intelligence in identifying posts to be tagged.
“If every post that mentions voting links, people will start to ignore those links. If they are directed to posts that say things like ‘The police will check unpaid search warrants and traffic tickets’ – a classic disinformation tactic for suppressing voters – and clearly mark posts as disinfo, they can be useful, ”he said. he.
But Zuckerman noted that Facebook “has a history of striving not to alienate right-leaning users, and given how strongly President Trump has aligned himself with the erroneous information that suppress voters, it seems likely that Facebook will make mistakes on the side non-invasive and intruder. skippable labels, which would minimize the impact of the campaign. “
Earlier in the day, shares on Facebook and Twitter dropped sharply after the giant company behind brands like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soap said it would stop advertising in the U.S. on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by the end of the year. .
European consumer products maker Unilever said it had taken the initiative to protest the amount of hate speech online. Unilever said the polarized atmosphere in the United States prior to the November presidential elections placed responsibility on brands to act.
Facebook and Twitter shares fell about 7% after Unilever’s announcement.
The company, based in the Netherlands and Great Britain, joins a host of other advertisers who are moving away from online platforms. Facebook, in particular, has been the target of an increasing movement to withhold advertising dollars to pressure it to do more to prevent racist and violent content from being shared on its platform.
“We have decided that from now on, at least until the end of the year, we will not display brand advertising on the social media news feed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the US,” said Unilever. “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at the moment would not add value to people and society. “
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Thursday, Verizon joined others in the Facebook boycott.
Unilever “has enough influence to convince other brand advertisers to follow its lead,” said Nicole Perrin, an analyst at eMarketer. She noted that Unilever has cut spending “for longer, on more platforms (including Twitter) and for broader reasons” – in particular, citing problems with “division” and hate speech.
Sarah Personette, vice president of global solutions for Twitter customers, said that “the company’s mission is to serve public conversation and ensure that Twitter is a place where people can make human connections, seek and receive authentic and credible information and express yourself freely and safely. . “
She added that Twitter “respects the decisions of our partners and will continue to work and communicate with them during this period”.