Now that the 2020 Presidential Election is in full swing, following the first round of Democratic debates last week, securing the election next November is becoming a bigger priority. Especially at Facebook.
The company announced that it is cracking down on fake news and misinformation now, ahead of the 2020 Presidential Election and the Census. Two things which are pretty big in the US.
Facebook's COO, Sheryl Sandberg posted a blog post on Sunday, which announced the civil rights report that Facebook had published. It's a new policy that will be launching in the fall, and will protect users against misinformation. Sandberg also mentioned that Facebook will "also partner with non-partisan groups to help promote proactive participation in the census."
Sandberg also noted that "to protect elections, we have a team… already working to ban ads that discourage people from voting, and we expect to finalize a new policy and its enforcement before the 2019 gubernatorial elections." This is of course, a direct response to the ads that Facebook saw during the 2016 Presidential Election cycle. Where different groups were being targeted with ads to tell them not to vote in the election. Where nearly half of the US citizens that could vote, did not, in 2016. This is a pretty big deal.
Facebook has been working to fight misinformation and fake news since the 2016 election. There was a lot of misinformation on Facebook (and elsewhere) during that election, and that is part of what helped Donald Trump win The White House. Facebook isn't here to help push a Democrat into office, but instead is looking to make the election fair. As adults, particularly millennials, are easily influenced by an ad they might see on Facebook or Instagram. Just ask all those that put out shopping ads on Instagram.
This isn't just about the Presidential Election though, but also the Census, which is set to take place next year as well. The Census is done once a decade, and it allows the government to find out how many people are living in a certain area, also the ethnicity, income and much more. This allows the government to allocate funds to different cities, based on their needs. Say Philadelphia has seen a big decrease in the number of citizens living there since 2010, the government would take away funds, as it's no longer needed and could be used better elsewhere.
But the Census is only good if people fill out the form. And a lot of people don't. So not only is Facebook looking to keep misinformation off of its platform for the election, but also for the Census. As it does clearly want everyone to be filling out that form.
This fight against misinformation is a big one, and it's going to be an ongoing one for Facebook. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out over the next few months, and into next years elections, as well as the Census. And to see if companies like Cambridge Analytica are able to harvest our data, and other groups able to paint candidates in a bad (untrue) picture.