By Jeff Horwitz
Facebook Inc. said it will suspend indefinitely all political and social-issue advertising in the U.S. after the polls close Nov. 3, in its latest move to combat potential confusion and abuse related to the election.
The policy, disclosed Wednesday, adds to an announcement by Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg that Facebook will bar new political ads in the week leading up to Election Day and flag any candidates' premature claims of victory. The CEO said at the time that he worried about an increased risk of civil unrest given the division over the presidential race and the potential for a delayed outcome.
The company had said more recently that it didn't expect to make additional changes to its election policies. But election tension has increased in recent weeks, with President Trump refusing to say he'll accept the outcome of the vote and both parties vowing to sign up record numbers of volunteers to monitor polling places, a trend that election-law scholars and voting-rights groups warn could cause disruption and voter intimidation.
"This is shaping up to be a very unique election," Guy Rosen, head of Facebook's Integrity division, said Wednesday.
In Wednesday's update, Facebook also said it will add restrictions to posts about poll watching operations that use militarized language or suggest an aim to intimidate voters. The social-media giant had previously said it would remove calls for coordinated interference at polling places, but has come under pressure from civil-rights activists on the left to take further action, particularly in the wake of a recent post in which Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, called for an "army" to protect the integrity of voting.
Facebook's election policies have been controversial. The pre-election limit on political ads was protested by both Republican and Democratic campaigns that said the inability to create new advertisements will hamper their ability to get voters to the polls.
After Wednesday's announcement, Tim Murtaugh, Trump campaign spokesman, said it was "glaringly obvious that this new policy is specifically targeted at the President's campaign" because the campaign's volunteers are referred to as an "Army for Trump."
The new announcements drew praise from some civil-rights groups that have criticized Facebook for failing to police voter suppression and intimidation efforts.
"These are important steps for Facebook to take to combat disinformation and the premature calling of election results before every vote is counted," said Vanita Gupta, CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Facebook has trumpeted a string of changes over the past several years that it has said will prevent the kind of widespread misinformation and abuse that plagued its platform in the 2016 U.S. election.
On the call with reporters, Mr. Rosen said Facebook deserved credit for doing far more to set rules for election-related content and promote the sharing of accurate information about voting unparalleled by its competitors.
"We believe we have done more than any other company over the last four years to secure the integrity of elections," he said.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires