Mark Zuckerberg launches massive Facebook get-out-the-vote drive ahead of presidential election
Many states are planning on drastically different elections this year and mail-in ballots could be a big game changer. USA TODAY
Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook is launching its largest voter registration drive yet ahead of the hotly contested presidential election, with the goal of registering 4 million voters this year.
In an Op-Ed for USA TODAY, the Facebook co-founder and CEO said he believes Facebook and its other platforms can play a positive role in the election.
“The 2020 election is going to be unlike any other. It was already going to be a heated campaign, and that was before the pandemic – and before the killing of George Floyd and so many others forced us yet again to confront the painful reality of systemic racism in America,” Zuckerberg wrote. “People want accountability, and in a democracy the ultimate way we do that is through voting.”
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The voting information initiative on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger will supply information about how to register and how to request an absentee or mail-in ballot. It will also include local election alerts about changes to the voting process from state election officials. And it will be prominently displayed at the top of the Facebook News Feed and on Instagram to make sure everyone sees it.
In addition, Facebook plans to introduce a new tool in the U.S. that will allow users to choose to see fewer political ads in their News Feed.
The announcement comes amid heightened scrutiny of the role Facebook plays in elections and as controversy swirls over Zuckerberg’s decision to leave up a post from President Donald Trump in which Trump called protesters thugs and warned: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Zuckerberg said he was standing firm on his commitment to free expression on Facebook, but told Facebook employees last week that he was open to some changes in how his company handles that kind of content.
“Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say – and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content. We have rules against speech that will cause imminent physical harm or suppress voting, and no one is exempt from them. But accountability only works if we can see what those seeking our votes are saying, even if we viscerally dislike what they say,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Ultimately, I believe the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting, and I believe we should trust voters to make (judgments) for themselves."
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, challenged Zuckerberg, saying he's not taking "sufficient action against politicians and their operatives who engage in voter suppression and incite violence."
"Without taking the comprehensive approach to protecting voting rights and fair elections that we’ve been demanding, this announcement is a half-measure," Gupta said in a statement.
In Tuesday's announcement, Zuckerberg also tried to calm fears that foreign actors will meddle in the U.S. presidential election, as they did four years ago.
“The threat of election interference is real and ongoing, but our systems are more prepared than ever,” he wrote Tuesday. “This work is never finished, but we've learned a lot and have adapted our systems to protect against interference.”