Facebook preparing 'exceptional' measures if election turns into chaos

Facebook preparing 'exceptional' measures if election turns into chaos

Facebook will take ‘exceptional’ measures to limit content if the US election descends into violent chaos, warns global affairs head Nick Clegg

  • Facebook is preparing ‘exceptional’ measures to restrict content if the US election descends into chaos or violence, head of global affairs Nick Clegg says
  • Site is thought to be planning for 70 possible scenarios, using military strategists
  • Measures include using AI to track and remove ‘dehumanizing’ content, limiting visibility of ‘borderline’ posts, and shutting down ‘fake’ or misleading accounts 
  • Similar measures were used in Myanmar and Sri Lanka amid racist violence 

Facebook is preparing to take ‘exceptional’ measures to restrict the flow of content on its site if the US election descends into violence, its head of global affairs says. 

Nick Clegg, former Lib Dem leader and UK deputy prime minister, said the site is preparing a number of ‘break glass’ options to use in the event of widespread civil unrest in the wake of the November ballot.

Facebook is thought to be preparing for around 70 possible scenarios, guided by military strategists, amid fears that President Trump could use social media to undermine the vote or encourage violent protests.

Facebook is preparing ‘exceptional’ measures to restrict content across its site in the event that the US election descends into violent chaos (file image)

Mr Clegg, in an interview with the FT, refused to say exactly what the measures would be, amid fears people may try to circumvent them, but suggested they would be similar to those used amid violence in other countries.

Facebook has previously restricted content in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, where it was accused of helping to foment violence against minority Muslim groups.

Measures included using AI to track and remove violent or ‘dehumanizing’ content, banning armed groups or groups that incite violence, and removing ‘fake’ accounts set up by users posing as someone else.

Nick Clegg, head of global affairs, said a number of ‘break glass’ options are on the table, which will be controlled by a ‘war room’

Other measures included reducing the visibility of content that comes close to breaching Facebook’s content rules without actually breaking them, making it harder for users to find. 

Users also had limits placed on how many times they could share messages across the Messenger application – which is similar to curbs already in place on WhatsApp, which Facebook owns.

Mr Clegg also revealed the existence of an election ‘war room’ which will be staffed by high-ranking executives poised to make critical decisions about what is being published on the platform.

The ‘Election Operations Center’ will monitor ‘suspicious activity’ on the site and update its ‘voter information hub’, where verified results will be published. 

It comes after Mark Zuckerberg warned that there is a ‘heightened risk’ of ‘violence or civil unrest’ following this year’s election, with results possibly taking longer to declare as mail-in ballots are counted.

To combat the threat, he announced measures to stop candidates prematurely declaring victory, by flagging their posts and redirecting users to verified results.

Facebook will also add warnings to posts or content that call the voting process into question, he added.

The vote, which promises to be one of the most controversial in recent years, comes against a backdrop of violent unrest that has already hit several US cities (pictured, protests in Kenosha)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has already announced measures to flag posts that undermine the voting process or call results into question (pictured, violence in Kenosha)

New political adverts will also be banned on Facebook in the week before the vote.

‘I think regardless of what we do, there’s some chance that this [unrest] happens across the country,’ Zuckerberg said.

‘I just want to make sure that we do our part to not contribute to it.’

The 2020 election, which is due to take place in six weeks, promises to be one of the most contentious in recent memory.

Both candidates – Trump and Joe Biden – have billed the vote as battle for the ‘soul’ of America, and stressed that it will be one of the most consequential in history.

Trump has repeatedly called the validity of the vote into question, suggesting that postal voting will make this election ‘the most inaccurate & fraudulent in history’.

He encouraged supporters in North Carolina to vote twice and refused to say whether he will accept the outcome if he loses.

He even went so far as to suggest delaying the vote until people can ‘properly, securely and safely vote’ – though this idea was roundly slapped down by politicians on both sides of the aisle in Washington.

Donald Trump has repeatedly called the validity of the vote into question, has refused to say he will accept the vote if he loses, and encouraged some supporters to vote twice

All of which comes against the backdrop of mass unrest and protests across the US, amid spiking murder rates.

Black Lives Matter and antifa activists have staged near-constant protests in cities across the US since George Floyd died during his arrest back in May, often accompanied by right-wing or far-right counter-protests.

Looting, rioting, and shooting deaths have occurred amid the unrest, most recently in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where two protesters were killed and a third critically hurt by counter-demonstrator Kyle Rittenhouse, who is now charged with murder.

Meanwhile Chicago, Philadelphia and New York have all seen their murder rates soar well above the same period last year. 

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