By Hannah Murphy
Facebook has said it will take aggressive and exceptional measures to “restrict the circulation of content” on its platform if November’s presidential election descends into chaos or violent civic unrest.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Nick Clegg, the company’s head of global affairs, said it had drawn up plans for how to handle a range of outcomes, including widespread civic unrest or “the political dilemmas” of having in-person votes counted more rapidly than mail-in ballots, which will play a larger role in this election due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“There are some break-glass options available to us if there really is an extremely chaotic and, worse still, violent set of circumstances,” Mr Clegg said, though he stopped short of elaborating further on what measures were on the table.
The proposed actions, which would probably go further than any previously taken by a US platform, come as the social media group is under increasing pressure to lay out how it plans to combat election-related misinformation, voter suppression and the incitement of violence on the November 3 election day and during the post-election period.
It also comes as concerns mount that even US president Donald Trump himself could take to social media to contest the result or call for violent protest, potentially triggering a constitutional crisis.
“We have acted aggressively in other parts of the world where we think that there is real civic instability and we obviously have the tools to do that [again],” Mr Clegg added, citing the previous use of “pretty exceptional measures to significantly restrict the circulation of content on our platform.”
Facebook refused to go into detail over its plans for election-related content control, as malicious actors might use that information to proactively work out how to game the system. However, during previous periods of unrest in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, the company took action including reducing the reach of content shared by repeated rule-breakers, and limiting the distribution of “borderline content” that was sensationalist but did not quite breach its hate speech rules.