Facebook prepares for election unrest with tools to slow viral posts

Michael Cogley
·2 min read
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg - Bertran Guay/AFP
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg - Bertran Guay/AFP

Facebook is preparing to clamp down on election-related misinformation and violence that may be triggered by posts on the site during next week’s vote.

The social media giant has made plans to deploy a host of internal tools typically used for what it calls “at-risk countries”, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources.

The tools will allow moderators to slow the spread of viral content as well as lower the bar for suppressing potentially inflammatory posts in the US. They have previously been used in countries like Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Facebook executives have claimed they would only deploy the moderation technology in extreme circumstances, citing election-related violence as one of them, according to the report.

Sources said they could help diminish the platform’s exposure to sensationalism and incitements to violence and misinformation. Some Facebook employees, however, have claimed that doing so could suppress political discussion on the site, which has caused some unease.

A spokesman for the tech giant told the Journal that the company had been building for safer, more secure elections “for years”.

It comes as big technology platforms on Monday called on the European Union to protect them from legal liabilities for removing hate speech and illegal content as government scrutiny over how platforms manage user posts grows worldwide.

A safeguard protecting companies that actively manage user posts would result in “better quality content moderation,” by incentivising platforms to remove bad content while protecting free expression, Edima, an association representing companies including Facebook, ByteDance-owned TikTok and Google.

Facebook has faced significant criticism over the way in which it moderates content on the platform, including most recently its decision to slow the spread of a negative New York Post story about Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son.