Social media platform Facebook on Thursday announced several steps to reduce “the risks of post-election confusion”, including not accepting new political advertisements a week before the November 3 presidential polls in the United States.

“Advertisers will be able to continue running ads they started running before the final week and adjust the targeting for those ads, but those ads will already be published transparently in our Ads Library so anyone, including fact-checkers and journalists, can scrutinize them,” Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer and founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a social media post.

Zuckerberg also said that the social media platform would remove all misinformation posts about the election and the coronavirus. He added that the company has strengthened its enforcement on “militias and conspiracy networks” such as QAnon and other networks that could be used to create unrest or lead to violence post-election.

“We have already removed thousands of these groups and removed even more from being included in our recommendations and search results,” he said. “We will continue to ramp up enforcement against these groups over the coming weeks.”

Zuckerberg said that a label will be added to the post of any candidate, who tries to declare victory before the results are in, declaring that they have not been released, and directing people to the official channels. Facebook has partnered with news agency Reuters and the National Election Pool, a consortium of American news organisations, to “provide authoritative information about election results”, he added.

Other measures taken by Facebook:

  • Displaying election information from the Voting Information Centre at the top of Facebook and Instagram almost every day until the polls. The voting Information Centre will also be used to educate people that it may take a while to get official results.
  • Limiting forwarding feature to cut down on risks on spreading misinformation. Facebook will also work with election officials to tackle misinformation.   
  • Posts that use the coronavirus pandemic as a threat to discourage voting will be removed. Such contents will not be allowed in advertisements. 
  • Attaching an informational label to content that seeks to delegitimise the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods.
  • Enforcing company’s violence and harm policies more broadly by expanding the definition of high-risk people to include election officials in order to help prevent any attempts to pressure or harm them.

“This election is not going to be business as usual,” Zuckerberg said. “We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy. That means helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest.”

Activists hailed measures taken by Facebook but said that the onus to implement them lies with the company, AP reported.

Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of UltraViolet, a women’s organisation critical of Facebook, said the announcement was a “public relations stunt” to distract people from the fact that the company was the largest “voter suppression campaigns in the United States.”

Siva Vaidhyanathan, a Facebook expert at the University of Virginia, said he was not optimistic about the new measures as the social media platform’s problem was enforcing its own policies.

Facebook has faced criticism for not fact-checking political ads. It had cited freedom of expression as the reason for letting politicians like Trump post false information about voting.