Facebook amplifies anti-misinformation efforts ahead of 2020 US election

Facebook started adding labels to posts related to elections that will link to a new voter information hub, reading, “Visit the Voting Information Center for election resources and official updates.”

Published - August 13, 2020 03:50 pm IST - OAKLAND, California

Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington.

Beginning Thursday, U.S. Facebook users who post about voting may start seeing an add-on to their messages -- labels directing readers to authoritative information about the upcoming presidential election.

In a latest step to counter election-related misinformation on its platform, Facebook began adding similar links to posts about in-person and mail-in balloting by federal politicians, including US President Donald Trump, in July.

These labels will link to a new voter information hub similar to one about COVID-19 that Facebook says has been seen by billions of users around the world. The labels will read, “Visit the Voting Information Center for election resources and official updates.”

The effectiveness of such labels will depend on how well Facebook’s artificial intelligence system identifies the posts that really need them, said Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Civic Media. He added that if every post with the word “vote” or “voting” gets an informational link, people will start ignoring those links.

The Nov. 3 election is set to witness a record number of voters submitting ballots by mail for the first time as fear of Coronavirus spread has forced states to make arrangements for voting in America more accessible.

Emily Dalton Smith, head of social impact at the company said Facebook expects the voter count to reach at least 160 million in the US. The primary focus is registering people to vote, she said, but the information people see will evolve throughout the election season, which in itself will be a unique one since the country has never gone through an election during a global pandemic.

Looking ahead to November, Facebook said it is “actively speaking with election officials about the potential of misinformation around election results as an emerging threat.”

The company did not give details on the potential threats, but said that a prolonged ballot process where results are not immediately clear “has the potential to be exploited in order to sow distrust in the election outcome.”

“One way we plan to fight this is by using the Voting Information Center and the US Elections digest in Facebook News to make sure people have easy access to the latest, authoritative information and news on and after Election Night,” Naomi Gleit, vice president of product management and social impact, wrote in a blog post.

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