Facebook is Failing its Own Election Tests

Facebook has failed to deliver on a slew of public commitments it made before, during, and after Election Day—and the damage is far from over.

In September 2020, Mark Zuckerberg said that for Facebook, the U.S. presidential election “is not going to be business as usual.” In October 2020,  Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg made an even bolder commitment: “Today we can say it: we are ready.” The weeks since have shown how woefully unprepared Facebook was to protect the integrity of the 2020 election. Despite warnings from election and technology experts, Facebook failed to meet a slew of important policy commitments it made to the public, including on misinformation, false claims of victory, advertisements, false claims of voter fraud, and incitement of violence.

When evaluating the company against its own promises, a clear picture emerges: Facebook’s measures were inconsistent, reactionary, and inadequate — often written to avoid responsibility and prioritize the protection of its own image above American democracy.

FACEBOOK ON GROUPS (10/7/20): “We continue to take down content proactively, including in groups that are private. We also — once we have misinformation that our third party fact checker has rated, we also match it to content inside private groups and that ensures that even those spaces are spaces where our [policies] are enforced.”

ACCOUNTABLE TECH WARNING: “Facebook Groups pose a singular threat to this election season. They’ve become hidden breeding grounds for disinformation campaigns and organizing platforms for extremists.”


FACEBOOK ON REPEAT MISINFORMATION SPREADERS (10/21/19): “[I]f Pages, domains or Groups repeatedly share misinformation, we’ll continue to reduce their overall distribution”

ACCOUNTABLE TECH WARNING: “A disproportionate amount of harmful misinformation on social media platforms can be tied back to a relatively small number of accounts…that effectively serve as superspreaders…By imposing a series of escalating penalties for repeat offenders during election season, platforms can head off the most insidious vectors of voting disinformation.”


FACEBOOK ON FALSE VICTORY CLAIMS (10/7/20): “We will apply a label when a candidate posts prematurely about victory.”

ACCOUNTABLE TECH WARNING: “Social media platforms should implement a rapid preclearance process for high-reach accounts to screen posts for violations of…civic integrity policies in the volatile period after polls close.”


FACEBOOK ON FALSE CLAIMS OF VOTER FRAUD (9/3/20): “We will attach an informational label to content that seeks to delegitimize the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods, for example, by claiming that lawful methods of voting will lead to fraud.”

ACCOUNTABLE TECH WARNING: “All platforms should make clear these neutral labels are distinct from, and not a substitute for, fact-checking treatments. Facebook’s efforts have already drawn consternation for this ambiguity.”


FACEBOOK ON ADS (9/3/20): “In the final days of an election there may not be enough time to contest new claims. So in the week before the election, we won’t accept new political or issue ads.”

ACCOUNTABLE TECH WARNING: “Facebook[‘s ad moratorium will] block campaigns and even officials from running new ads at a critical juncture.”


FACEBOOK ON VIOLENCE (9/30/20): “We are very focused on getting all mentions of hate and violence down before the election and after election.”

ACCOUNTABLE TECH WARNING: “Social media platforms should implement a rapid preclearance process for high-reach accounts to screen posts for violations of violence incitement.”


FACEBOOK ON VOTER SUPPRESSION (6/26/20): “We’ll also remove any threats of coordinated interference… which can be used to intimidate voters. We will continue to review our voter suppression policies on an ongoing basis as part of our work on voter engagement and racial justice.”

ACCOUNTABLE TECH WARNING: “Facebook’s internal civil rights audit…makes clear that the platform is actively facilitating voter suppression, magnifying rampant election disinformation, and seeding hate.”


Facebook’s missteps and empty promises continue to erode a shared baseline of truth that a functioning democracy requires. If left unchecked, the company will continue to foment misinformation, provide an organizing platform for hate groups, and profit off of polarization-driving the country further and further apart. Facebook must be held to account for the damage it continues to do.