Facebook has announced it will ban political ads for an indefinite period after the presidential election in an effort to limit misinformation and "reduce opportunities for confusion and abuse."
Facebook also said it would take down posts intended to intimidate voters, including those which use militarized language to call for people to engage in poll watching.
Previously, Facebook committed to ban new political ads a week ahead of the election. Old, active ads could still show up in newsfeeds.
The new rules don’t stop politicians from lying in political ads, or limit microtargeting, which allows them to tailor messages to individual voters. Experts tell Newsy that Facebook’s efforts should have some effect, but might be limited.
“I think the most likely scenario is that the efforts to stop misinformation may work to some extent, but they will not eliminate the problems they're aimed at," said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University's Stern Center for Business and Human Rights and author of the report "Who Moderates The Social Media Giants?" And that's in significant part because of scale. There's just too much for it for a company to manage and oversee, when you're talking about hundreds of millions of posts a day.”
Experts also tell Newsy that Facebook’s usual hands-off approach to divisive political content has made it harder for the platform to stamp out misinformation.
"They put themselves in a straightjacket by basically saying we're not arbiters of the truth, we're going to stay hands off on anything that's politically controversial," said Michael Posner, Director of the Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, New York University. "If you're in the straitjacket, how can you keep carving out these areas where you're going to take action, but pretending that the rest of it's OK?"
Barrett adds that if Facebook is serious about stopping political misinformation, the ban should be extended even further.
"[Facebook] says it’s going to limit advertising in the last key period before the election, but not tomorrow. So that in some ways, it's an invitation to political operatives with bad intentions to hurry up and get their nasty stuff done," Barrett said.
Experts stress that, while Facebook may not eradicate every piece of bad content, the efforts are still worthwhile.
"Facebook is likely to do better than it did in 2016. But will it be able to stamp out all of the bad behavior that takes place on its site? I think almost certainly not," Barrett said.