Facebook has approached academics and policy experts about forming a committee to advise them on issues related to global elections, 5 people with knowledge of the discussions said, a move that would allow the social network to shift some political decision-making to consulting the human body.
The proposed committee could decide on issues such as the viability of political ads and what to do about election-related misinformation, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the protests. Discussion is confidential. Facebook is expected to announce the commission this fall in preparation for the 2022 midterm elections, it said, although the effort is preliminary and still likely to fail.
Outsourcing election issues to a panel of experts could help Facebook avoid criticism of political group bias, two of them said. In recent years, conservatives have accused Facebook of suppressing their voices, as well as civil rights groups and Democrats, for allowing political misinformation to spread online. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, doesn’t want to be seen as the sole decision maker on political content, two of them said.
Facebook declined to comment.
If an election commission were created, it would emulate the step Facebook took in 2018 when it created what it calls the Oversight Board, a collection of journalism, law and policy experts to arbitrate whether the company is right to remove certain posts from its platform. Facebook has submitted some content decisions to the Board of Supervisors for review, allowing them to demonstrate that they did not make the decisions on their own.
Facebook, which has positioned the Supervisory Board as independent, has appointed people on the supervisory board and paid them through a trust.
The Board of Supervisors’ highest-level decision was to review Facebook’s suspension of former President Donald J. Trump following the storm on the Capitol on January 6. At the time, Facebook chose to ban Mr. Trump’s account indefinitely. term, a penalty that the Board of Supervisors later deemed “inappropriate” because the timeframe was not based on any of the company’s rules. The board asked Facebook to try again.
In June, Facebook responded by saying it would ban Mr. Trump from the platform for at least two years. The supervisory board separately weighed in on more than a dozen other instances of content it called “highly iconic” on broader topics that Facebook regularly contends with, including whether certain related posts related to Covid should still appear online and issues of hate speech in Myanmar.
A spokesman for the Board of Supervisors declined to comment.
Facebook has had a notable track record on election-related issues, going back to Russia’s manipulation of the platform’s ads and posts during the 2016 presidential election.
Lawmakers and political ad buyers also criticized Facebook for changing the rules around political ads ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Last year, the company said it would ban the purchase of political ads. new political ads a week before the election, then the decision to temporarily ban all US political ads after the polls closed on Election Day, causing an uproar among the candidates members and companies that buy advertising.
The company has struggled with how to handle lies and hate speech surrounding elections. In his final year in office, Mr. Trump used Facebook to suggest he would use state violence against protesters in Minneapolis ahead of the 2020 election, while also casting doubt on the election process. when votes were tallied in November, Facebook initially said what political leaders had posted was trustworthy and shouldn’t be touched, before reversing course later.
The social network has also faced election difficulties elsewhere, including the proliferation of targeted misinformation on its WhatsApp messaging service during the presidential election. Brazil in 2018. In 2019, Facebook removed hundreds of misleading pages and accounts related to political parties in India ahead of the country’s national elections.
Facebook has tried various methods to suppress criticism. It has established a political ad library to increase transparency about who buys those promotions. It has also set up war rooms to monitor elections for disinformation to prevent interference.
There are several elections next year in countries like Hungary, Germany, Brazil and the Philippines, where Facebook’s actions will come under scrutiny. Misinformation about voter fraud began circulating ahead of the German elections in September. In the Philippines, Facebook removed networks of fake accounts supporting President Rodrigo Duterte, who used the social network. this to come to power in 2016.
“There has been a perception that Facebook, an American social media company, is participating in and tilting the elections of other countries through the platform,” said Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Stanford University. his foundation. “Any decision made by Facebook has a global impact.”
Three people with knowledge of the matter said internal conversations around an election commission went back at least a few months ago.
These people said an election commission would differ from an Oversight Board in one key point. While the Board of Supervisors waits for Facebook to remove a post or an account and then considers the action, the election commission will proactively issue guidance without the company calling before, they said.
Tatenda Musapatike, who previously worked on elections at Facebook and now runs a nonprofit voter registration organization, says many people have lost confidence in the company’s ability to execute campaigns. political translation. But the election commission’s proposal is “a good step,” she said, because “they’re doing something and they’re not saying we can handle it alone.”