Facebook preps for US election chaos with tools for ‘at-risk’ nations

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Facebook could try to tamp down on election-related chaos in the US by using safeguards it built for “at-risk” countries, a new report says.

The social network will have the tools ready in case violence or other civil unrest erupts in the wake of Election Day next week as CEO Mark Zuckerberg has anticipated, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

The measures potentially at play include broadly slowing the spread of posts that begin to go viral, changing the types of content users see in their news feeds, and lowering the bar for the kinds of posts that its software identifies as dangerous, according to the paper.

Facebook has previously deployed these tools in countries such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar, where the tech titan’s failures to tamp down on viral misinformation were blamed for real-world violence against Muslims, the Journal reports.

The safeguards could prove a double-edged sword in the US, according to the outlet — they would likely limit Americans’ exposure to sensational content and calls to violence but also potentially limit legitimate political dialogue, which reportedly has some Facebook staffers concerned.

Facebook did not confirm the details of the post-election safeguards it’s preparing, but spokesman Andy Stone said the company has “applied lessons from previous elections, hired experts, and built new teams with experience across different areas to prepare for various scenarios.”

“We’ve created new products, partnerships and policies — such as pausing post-election ads — to ensure we’re more prepared than ever for the unique challenges of an election during a global pandemic,” Stone said in a statement.

Facebook’s reported preparations come after the Silicon Valley giant announced several new efforts to clamp down on misinformation in the final weeks of the presidential campaign, including by blocking new political ads in the week before Election Day.

As he rolled out those measures last month, Zuckerberg said he foresaw “a heightened risk of civil unrest” between the final day of voting on Nov. 3 and an official winner being declared in the race between President Trump and Joe Biden.

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