Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company will let users opt out of political ads and will help register 4 million voters for the 2020 election.
Zuckerberg made the announcement in an opinion piece for USA Today, in which he also discussed Facebook’s efforts to prevent election interference.
His comments come amid concerns about voter suppression and voting issues during this year’s election, which could be amplified by the coronavirus pandemic.
Facebook has “a responsibility not just to prevent voter suppression — which disproportionately targets people of color — but to actively support well-informed voter engagement, registration and turnout,” Zuckerberg wrote.
Facebook will encourage people to vote and will create a Voting Information Center with election-related information, including details about voter registration, voting by mail and early voting, he said. The new feature will also show posts from state and local election authorities. The center will be at the top of Facebook’s News Feed and on Instagram.
“This work is sorely needed: we surveyed adults in the U.S. and more than half said they believe people will need more information on how to vote in November than in previous elections,” he said.
Facebook has launched similar voter registration drives in the past but nothing this ambitious. It helped register 2 million voters ahead of the 2016 election and 2 million more for the 2018 midterm elections.
While the voting center can’t be disabled, a feature will allow users to turn off political ads. It is set to begin rolling out on Facebook and Instagram on Wednesday, and it will be available to everyone within the next few weeks.
Zuckerberg also discussed his platform’s free speech policies and work to prevent election interference.
Facebook has recently come under criticism for its unwillingness to moderate and remove offensive or inaccurate information espoused by politicians, including President Donald Trump. Zuckerberg addressed the criticism, saying it’s necessary to see what politicians are saying to hold them accountable. He argued that the better way to ensure accountability is through voting.
Facebook also faced intense scrutiny for its role in the 2016 election, including its use as a tool for Russian meddling. Zuckerberg said Facebook has a responsibility to “protect the integrity of the vote itself” and admitted that the company was slow to identify foreign interference in 2016.
He said that Facebook has since built “some of the most advanced systems in the world” to protect against interference and that it has done so in more than 200 elections globally.
In October, Zuckerberg said Facebook had already thwarted new election interference campaigns from Russia and Iran, which it viewed as the precursors for future manipulation.
“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 said.