President Donald Trump, who has questioned the legitimacy of the vote-by-mail system, arrives for a campaign rally in Yuma, Ariz., on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.
Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, is working out what steps to take should Trump use its platform to dispute the results of the presidential election.
Facebook spent years preparing to ward off any tampering on its site before November’s presidential election. Now the social network is getting ready in case President Donald Trump interferes once the vote is over.
Employees at the Silicon Valley company are laying out contingency plans and walking through postelection scenarios that include attempts by Trump or his campaign to use the platform to delegitimize the results, people with knowledge of Facebook’s plans said.
Facebook is preparing steps to take should Trump wrongly claim on the site that he won another four-year term, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Facebook is also working through how it might act if Trump tries to invalidate the results by declaring that the Postal Service lost mail-in ballots or that other groups meddled with the vote, the people said.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and some of his lieutenants have started holding daily meetings about minimizing how the platform can be used to dispute the election, the people said. They have discussed a “kill switch” to shut off political advertising after Election Day since the ads, which Facebook does not police for truthfulness, could be used to spread misinformation, the people said.
The preparations underscore how rising concerns over the integrity of the November election have reached social media companies, whose sites can be used to amplify lies, conspiracy theories, and inflammatory messages. YouTube and Twitter have also discussed plans for action if the post-election period becomes complicated, according to disinformation and political researchers who have advised the firms.
The tech companies have spent the past few years working to avoid a repeat of the 2016 election when Russian operatives used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to inflame the American electorate with divisive messages. While the firms have since clamped down on foreign meddling, they are reckoning with a surge of domestic interference, such as from right-wing conspiracy group QAnon and Trump himself.
In recent weeks, Trump, who uses social media as a megaphone, has sharpened his comments about the election. He has questioned the legitimacy of mail-in voting, suggested that people’s mail-in ballots would not be counted and avoided answering whether he would step down if he lost.
Alex Stamos, director of Stanford University’s Internet Observatory and a former Facebook executive, said Facebook, Twitter and YouTube faced a singular situation where they “have to potentially treat the president as a bad actor” who could undermine the democratic process.
Facebook examined what it would do, for instance, if hackers backed by a nation-state leaked documents online, or if a nation-state Source: The New York Times