Facebook said on Thursday, it will ban new political advertising the week before the US election, one of its most sweeping moves yet against disinformation as CEO Mark Zuckerberg warned of a "risk of civil unrest" after the vote.
The social media giant vowed to fact check premature claims of victory, stating that if a candidate tries to declare himself the winner before final votes are tallied "we’ll add a label to their posts directing people to the official results."
And it promised to "add an informational label" to content seeking to delegitimize the results or claim that "lawful voting methods" will lead to fraud.
"Anyone who is saying the election is going to be fraudulent, I think that’s problematic," Zuckerberg said in a CBS interview on Thursday.
Facebook also started limiting its Messenger service to allow users to forward missives to no more than five people or groups at a time "to help curb the efforts of those looking to cause chaos, sow uncertainty or inadvertently undermine accurate information."
The moves follow sharp criticism of Facebook’s handling of the 2016 presidential election when it failed to restrict disinformation from Russian operatives that spread conspiracy theories and discouraged voting in some cases.
The US is gearing up for what is expected to be a bruising campaign season against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and mass protests for racial justice that have led to violent conflict in some cities between civil rights groups and armed right-wing vigilantes.
The world's biggest social network also said it was creating a label for posts by candidates or campaigns that try to claim victory before the election results are official and widening the criteria for content to be removed as voter suppression.
Zuckerberg has long favored a hands-off approach to candidate statements, but he said a new policy was needed for last-minute ads because "In the final days of an election there may not be enough time to contest new claims."
Voters are expected to shift to mail-in voting in unprecedented numbers to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
As a result, the final tally may not be revealed until well after voting day -- raising the risk of paranoia and rumor-mongering.