Eager to avoid repeating its disastrous role as a super-spreader of misinformation during the 2016 election cycle, Facebook gets his ducks in a row.
Following an announcement earlier this summer, the company is now launching a voting information hub that will centralize voting resources for US users and ideally vaccinate at least some of them against the platform's ongoing misinformation epidemic.
The Voting Information Center is displayed in the menu on both Facebook and Instagram. As part of this effort, Facebook is also targeting US users with location and age notifications showing relevant information about voting in their state. The action center helps users review their country-specific options for voting by email, requesting postal ballots, and setting voting deadlines.
Facebook is also expanding the labels that are used to attach verified electoral resources to posts by political figures. The labels are now displayed in voting posts of all users on the main platform and on Instagram. By doing this, the platform can avoid taking action against certain political figures and still alert its users to verified US election information.
Along with other aspects of the pre-election boost, Facebook will publish previously announced “Voting Notifications,” a feature that allows election officials to notify users of election-related updates through the platform. "This is getting more and more critical as we get closer to the election, with potential breakthrough changes in the voting process that could affect voters," wrote Naomi Gleit, vice president of product management and social impact at Facebook, in a blog post about the feature. According to the company, voting notifications are only available for government accounts and not for personal pages of state or local election officials.
The company cited the complexities of running state elections amid the pandemic in its decision to open the info center, which is also modeled after the COVID-19 info center it set up in the early days of the crisis. While the COVID-19 Info Hub was originally displayed at the top of users' Facebook feeds, it has now only appeared on searches related to the virus.
Election night nightmare
Facebook seems to be aware that it could very well become the "arbiter of the truth" on election night. Given the unprecedented circumstances in 2020 resulting in a record number of ballots in the mail, it is possible that the election result could be delayed or otherwise confused. Without clear results, conspiracy theories, opportunism, and other forms of misinformation are likely to explode on social platforms – a nightmare scenario that social networks seem to be preemptively fearful of.
"A longer voting process can be used to create suspicion about the election result," wrote Gleit in Facebook's post, which detailed the voting instruments.
The company was one of nine tech companies that met with federal officials on Wednesday to discuss how they will deal with concerns about misinformation on the platforms on election day.
Joint industry statement on ongoing collaboration between technology companies and USG agencies in the field of election security tasked with protecting the integrity of the elections pic.twitter.com/c1fHERHWtw
– Facebook Newsroom (@fbnewsroom) August 12, 2020
The group now includes Facebook, Google, Reddit, Twitter, Microsoft, Pinterest, Verizon Media, LinkedIn and the Wikimedia Foundation. Some members of the group had previously met to discuss pre-election efforts, but the expanded coalition of companies formally partnering with federal officials to prepare for the US election appears new.