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Protecting our Elections and Preserving our Democracy

Protecting our Elections and Preserving our Democracy

By Neil Potts, Public Policy Director, Facebook, Inc.

Every election is an exercise of democracy. But it’s more than that. It also tests the strength and resilience of a democracy, which requires the participation of an informed citizenry.

Facebook has always believed in empowering people by giving them a platform to speak up and speak out. We believe that free expression, even when messy, leads to greater progress over time. In every democracy, exercising your voice means exercising the power of your vote. It is the best way to hold elected leaders accountable in a free society.

In June, Facebook announced that it’s running the largest voting information campaign in American history. Our goal is to help 4 million voters register using Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger ahead of the November elections. As part of that effort, we recently launched our Voting Information Center in the U.S., which serves as a one-stop-shop to give people the tools and information they need to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

Every election is heated and this year is no exception. But this year’s election is being conducted amid a global pandemic, which has introduced new threats and more uncertainty for voters. It has forced many states to make changes to their voting procedures in an effort to keep people safe. This has created confusion in the minds of many voters about where, when, and how to exercise their right to vote in their state. We recently asked potential voters about this in a survey and 62% said they think people will need more information on how to vote this year than they needed in previous elections.

That’s where the Voting Information Center comes in – it provides people with accurate and timely information about what the rules are in their state, how to register, and what the deadlines are. Because the pandemic also making makes it more likely that people will vote by mail than in previous elections, the Voting Information Center is providing accurate information about how to request an absentee or mail-in ballot, depending on the rules in their state, along with local election alerts from their state authorities about changes to the voting process. Our intention is simple but ambitious: to help every eligible voter in the U.S. who uses our platform to vote this year.

Helping to get out the vote isn’t enough; we know we also need to play our part in protecting against attempts at voter suppression. That’s why we’ve had a voter interference policy on the books since 2016. In 2018, we updated these rules by banning any content that misleads people on when or how they can vote. Recently, we’ve tightened them further to reflect the realities of this year’s elections.

For example, we now ban posts that make false claims such as ICE agents will be checking immigration papers at polling places, which is a common voter suppression tactic. We’re also going to use our Elections Operations Center to work with state election authorities to quickly respond to and remove false claims about polling conditions in the 72 hours leading into election day. Additionally, we’re adding labels to any post on Facebook or Instagram that talks about voting, even if posted by politicians, so people can access the latest official election information. The Voting Information Center uses information from state election officials and other nonpartisan civic organizations and we will continue working closely with state election officials through November to ensure that it is updated with the latest election information in each state.

Confusion about voting also creates more potential for people to abuse this uncertainty. Since 2016, we’ve built some of the most advanced systems in the world to combat election interference. The Voting Information Center is now another line of defense in that effort. By providing clear, accurate and authoritative information to people, we will reduce the effectiveness of misinformation about ways to register or vote so people can successfully vote this fall.

Facebook’s work to support the 2020 US elections is ultimately about helping everyone use their voices. By helping people navigate a confusing process to register and vote and stopping people from trying to abuse our platforms to interfere in the election, we’re aiming to help people use the power of their voice in the way it matters the most, by exercising their right to vote.