Facebook will start to add a label to all “newsworthy” content such as statements from politicians that would otherwise violate the company’s policies, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Friday.
Zuckerberg said in a lengthy announcement that Facebook sometimes leaves up content that would otherwise violate its policy “if the public interest value outweighs the risk of harm,” because it is deemed newsworthy.
The added label would act as a “prompt” to alert users that the content they share may violate Facebook policies. However, Facebook will still allow people to share the content.
“Often, seeing speech from politicians is in the public interest, and in the same way that news outlets will report what a politician says, we think people should generally be able to see it for themselves on our platforms,” Zuckerberg said.
Content Related to Voting
In the same announcement, Facebook said it is taking additional steps to “fight voter suppression” by tightening policies to “ban any content that misleads people on when or how they can vote.”
“We will also ban posts that make false claims saying ICE agents are checking for immigration papers at polling places, which is a tactic used to discourage voting,” Zuckerberg said.
“We’ll also remove any threats of coordinated interference, like someone saying ‘My friends and I will be doing our own monitoring of the polls to make sure only the right people vote,’ which can be used to intimidate voters,” he added. “We will continue to review our voter suppression policies on an ongoing basis as part of our work on voter engagement and racial justice.”
The company will take down “content that incites violence or suppresses voting,” even if a politician or government official posts such content, because “there is no newsworthiness exemption” in such a case, according to the announcement.
A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed to Reuters that its new policy would have meant attaching a link on voting information to U.S. President Donald Trump’s post last month about mail-in ballots. Rival Twitter had affixed a fact-checking label to that post.
Facebook will also start adding new labels to all posts about voting that will direct users to authoritative information from state and local election officials.
“We are adopting a policy of attaching a link to our Voting Information Center for posts that discuss voting, including from politicians,” Zuckerberg said. “This isn’t a judgment of whether the posts themselves are accurate, but we want people to have access to authoritative information either way.
‘Higher Standard for Hateful Content’
Zuckerberg said Facebook is seeking to create a “higher standard for hateful content in ads” and will prohibit a wider category of such content in ads, specifically banning ads that “claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health, or survival of others.”
“We’re also expanding our policies to better protect immigrants, migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from ads suggesting these groups are inferior or expressing contempt, dismissal, or disgust directed at them,” he added.
The latest announcement comes amid a growing ad boycott campaign, called “Stop Hate for Profit,” that was started by several U.S. civil rights groups after the death of George Floyd, to pressure the company to act on what some people deem as hate speech and misinformation.
Shares of Facebook closed down more than 8 percent and Twitter ended 7 percent lower on Friday after Unilever said it would stop its U.S. ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the rest of the year, citing “divisiveness and hate speech during this polarized election period in the U.S.”
More than 90 advertisers including Japanese carmaker Honda Motor Co. Ltd’s U.S. subsidiary, Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s, Verizon Communications Inc. and The North Face, a unit of VF Corp, have joined the campaign, according to a list by ad activism group Sleeping Giants.
Hours after Facebook’s announcement, Coca-Cola Co. said starting from July 1, it would pause paid advertising on all social media platforms globally for at least 30 days.
In a statement, a Facebook spokeswoman pointed to its civil rights audit and investments in artificial intelligence that allow it to find and take action on hate speech.
“We know we have more work to do,” she said, noting that Facebook will continue working with civil rights groups, the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, and other experts to develop more tools, technology, and policies to “continue this fight.”
Reuters contributed to this report.