Facebook Lets You Turn Off Political Ads, Encourages You to Vote

Zuckerberg wants to support and strengthen 'democracy in 2020 and beyond'

Opting out of dubiously-funded political ads (and helping people find out where and how to vote) could help support democracy in the US.

Facebook election day screens on iPhone
Facebook

In a USA Today op-ed, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed new plans centered around encouraging people to vote and a feature that will let users turn off any political ads on the platform. This comes in response to the 2016 elections, during which Zuckerberg admits his company was slow to identify foreign interference on the platform.

Zuckerberg says: "With so much of our discourse taking place online, I believe platforms like Facebook can play a positive role in this election by helping Americans use their voice where it matters most—by voting. We're announcing on Wednesday the largest voting information campaign in American history. Our goal is to help 4 million people register to vote."

Turn off the ads: If you're tired of all the political ads in your feed, says Zuckerberg, you can just turn them off. You won't be able to avoid information, however: "We'll still remind you to vote."

Voting information: To that end, the company is creating a new Voting Information Center with "authoritative" info on how and when to vote, with details on voter registration, voting by mail, and early voting. It will include posts from regional election officials to help you understand the process on a local level. It will show up at the top of your news feed and on Instagram.

Zuckerberg estimates that more than 160 million US people will see this info and the reminders to vote between July and November 2020.

Non-partisan: Facebook still gets to remain neutral in its political leanings, of course, as it makes sure not to choose a side in who gets a voice and who does not. "Finally, we remain committed to giving everyone a voice. This is especially true for those who haven't historically had the ability to make their voices heard," the CEO wrote. "Free expression is part of the messy process of democracy, and we take our responsibility to protect it incredibly seriously."

Bottom line: Getting out the vote is extremely important, and making sure the process isn't subverted is equally key. Sure, it's probably not simple altruism that makes Facebook want to protect the voting process in the US, but if the end result is the same, no one should mind.

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