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Facebook moves to target misinformation before election in US

Washington DC: With just two months left until the US presidential election, Facebook says it is taking more steps to encourage voting, minimise misinformation and reduce the likelihood of post-election civil unrest.

The company said Thursday it will restrict new political ads in the week before the election and remove posts that convey misinformation about COVID-19 and voting.

It also will attach links to official results to posts from candidates and campaigns declaring premature victories.

This election is not going to be business as usual. We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on Thursday.

That means helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest."

Facebook and other social media companies are being scrutinized over how they handle misinformation, given issues with President Donald Trump and other candidates posting false information and Russia's interference in the 2016 White House elections and ongoing attempts to interfere in US politics. Facebook has long been criticized for not fact-checking political ads or limiting how they can be targeted at small groups of people.

With the nation divided, and election results potentially taking days or weeks to be finalized, there could be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country," Zuckerberg said.

In July, Trump refused to publicly commit to accepting the results of the upcoming election, as he scoffed at polls that showed him lagging behind rival candidate Joe Biden. That has raised concern over the willingness of Trump and his supporters to abide by election results.

Under the new measures, Facebook says it will prohibit politicians and campaigns from running new election ads in the week before the election. However, they can still run existing ads and change how they are targeted.

Posts with obvious misinformation on voting policies and the coronavirus pandemic will also be removed. Users can only forward articles to a maximum of five others on Messenger, Facebook's messaging app.

The company also will work with Reuters to provide official election results and make the information available both on its platform and with push notifications.

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