Facebook has been criticized for many things, but one complaint that’s stuck above most of them is this: They’ve allowed a hotbed of disinformation about elections to fester, to the consternation of many. But now they’re springing into action. According to The New York Times, it’s going to indefinitely prohibit “all political and issue-based advertising,” in an attempt to take “more preventive measures to keep political candidates from using it to manipulate the election’s outcome and its aftermath.” One catch? The ban won’t go into place until Nov. 4, the day after the national election.
Facebook came under fire after it was revealed Russian operatives had used the service to spread disinformation during the 2016 election, perhaps even helping swing it Trump’s way. Since then co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg says he’s spent billions of dollars — more than the $5.1 billion they made in their first year as a private company, in 2012 — to “hire new employees for the company’s ‘integrity’ and security divisions, who identify and clamp down on interference.”
But it doesn’t appear they’re seeing much in the way of results, as per the Times:
Yet how successful the efforts have been are questionable. The company continues to find and take down foreign interference campaigns, including three Russian disinformation networks as recently as two weeks ago.
Domestic misinformation has also mushroomed, as Facebook has said it will not police speech from politicians and other leading figures for truthfulness. Mr. Zuckerberg, who supports unfettered speech, has not wavered from that position as Mr. Trump has posted falsehoods and misleading comments on the site.
Facebook has long resisted outright banning political ads, even after being called on by many to do so, making the ban a surprise, even if it won’t go into effect immediately. One thing they’ll be doing now is removing posts that call on people to engage in poll watching, namely “when those calls use militarized language or suggest that the goal is to intimidate, exert control, or display power over election officials or voters.” Trump himself at the first presidential debate asked his supporters to engage in poll watching, though he didn’t go into specifics. They’ve already been removing posts, some 120,000 of them, that have violated its policies on voter interference.
They’ll even go after You Know Who. “I want to underscore that we remove this content regardless of who posts it,” said Monica Bickert, the company’s head of global policy management. “That includes the president.”
The news comes one day after they went after another problem with their site, removing any group, page, and Instagram account that identified with the pro-Trump conspiracy movement QAnon. That, too, was something that was allowed to grow and fester over the years, with little regulation from Facebook top brass.