Facebook executives are considering a ‘kill switch’ on political adverts should the 2020 United States presidential election outcome not be immediately clear, or if Donald Trump were to dispute the results.
Mark Zuckerberg told employees that if political figures or commentators tried declaring early victory in the election, Facebook would consider adding a label to their posts explaining that the results were not final.
Yet Facebook’s heavily lopsided political involvement in recent years brings into serious question whether this is a move with fairness and accuracy at heart or if it is to sway the election in a particular direction.
Revelations of such a plan came to light from two Facebook employees, reported by the New York Times, who claimed that Zuckerberg said the company was in unprecedented territory due to finding Trump’s comments “quite troubling”.
“[Facebook] executives have discussed the “kill switch” for political advertising, according to two employees, which would turn off political ads after Nov. 3 if the election’s outcome was not immediately clear or if Mr. Trump disputed the results,” the New York Times article reports.
“The discussions remain fluid, and it is unclear if Facebook will follow through with the plan, three people close to the talks said.
“In a call with reporters this month, Facebook executives said they had removed more than 110,000 pieces of content between March and July that violated the company’s election-related policies. They also said there was a lot about the election that they didn’t know.”
Concerns of bias
The mention of just one of the two presidential candidates already raises questions of Facebook’s impartiality, yet coupled with the tech giant’s political collaborations, it becomes even more troubling that the world’s largest social network would explicitly single out one candidate as posing a disinformation threat, as well as the idea that the election results might not be immediately clear.
Facebook is known for its support and promotion of the now debunked Russiagate theory, which claimed that Russia rigged the 2016 elections in Trump’s favor, and which proved the catalyst for their purge of hundreds of legitimate and influential pages back in 2016.
Russiagate also sparked Facebook’s introduction of so-called ‘impartial’ fact-checkers which have an overwhelming bias.
And as recently as May 2020, Facebook created an ‘Oversight Board’ to run the rule over which posts should be censored on its platform, which 19 out of its 20 members have publicly voiced their disdain for president Trump.