Facebook is preparing for an ugly Election Day
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Today, Facebook launched its long-promised voter information center, meant as an authoritative guide to help Americans cast their votes in the upcoming election.
With the election more than two months away, the information in the center is currently focused on voter registration, but Facebook officials said that the focus would change as election day approaches, moving to the specifics of the voting process and, after election day itself, the accurate reporting of results.
“As we get closer to Election Day, voting by mail will be even more important to people who prefer to stay away from crowded polling places,” said Naomi Gleit, VP of product management and social impact at Facebook. “Early voting will also be an important option for many people, depending on the rules in their state.”
Most ominously, Facebook is planning for the voting information center to become a canonical source for election results after polls close, as the delay in tallying mail-in ballots could cause final results to be delayed for several days.
“It looks increasingly like we may not have results on election night,” said Facebook security chief Nathaniel Gleicher. “We want people to understand the debate, but we also want them to understand the facts”
As the election approaches, Facebook’s voting information center will be placed at the top of users’ News Feeds, similar to the COVID-19 information center deployed in March. Facebook will also include links to the center in posts identified as relating to the election, both from political figures and everyday users. Still, the content will only be visible to users who click through the link, and it’s unclear how well the system will deter misinformation spread on the network at large.
The project comes amid a growing dispute over mail-in voting, which many voting boards have put forward as a way to minimize the virus risk of traditional in-person polling places. Despite casting numerous absentee ballots by mail, President Trump has been intensely critical of the efforts, baselessly accusing mail-in ballots of being “a formula for rigging an election.”
More recently, President Trump has blocked funding to the US Postal Service as a way of preventing mail-in ballots from being effectively delivered. “[Democrats] need that money in order to have the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” he told Fox Business in an interview. “Those are just two items, but if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”