Mark Zuckerberg fears civil unrest after Election Day and said Facebook must help prepare people for a drawn-out result

insider@insider.com (Isobel Asher Hamilton)-September 4, 2020, 8:49 AM EDT

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with Axios that he feared there could be “civil unrest” after Election Day and that Facebook wanted to help alert users to the fact that the election results might take longer than usual to arrive.
  • Zuckerberg said he feared the fact the election might be drawn out over days or weeks could lead voters to incorrectly question its legitimacy.
  • “I just think we need to be doing everything that we can to reduce the chances of violence or civil unrest in the wake of this election,” Zuckerberg said.
  • Such language is comparatively unusual for the Zuckerberg, who, with his company, has tried to avoid antagonizing President Donald Trump.

Facebook has to take steps to inform users about the 2020 US presidential election in a bid to reduce the chances of civil unrest after Election Day, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Axios.

In an interview due to be fully aired Tuesday, Zuckerberg said the social network wanted to signal to users that the election results would most likely take longer to be known than previous ones because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We may not know the final result on election night,” he told Axios. “One of the things that we and other media need to start doing is preparing the American people that there’s nothing illegitimate about this election taking additional days, or even weeks, to make sure that all the votes are counted. In fact that might be important to make sure that this is a legitimate and fair election.”

“So we’re going to do a bunch of different messaging around that just to make sure that people know that that’s normal,” he added.

Zuckerberg gave an example that if any candidates claimed victory before there’s a consensus result, Facebook would add a note to that post informing users.

“This is important because there is unfortunately I think there is a heightened risk of civil unrest in the period between voting and a result being called, or after that,” he said. “I just think we need to be doing everything that we can to reduce the chances of violence or civil unrest in the wake of this election.”

Such language is comparatively unusual for Zuckerberg, who, in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, denied that Facebook might have been used as a tool for election interference. He later acknowledged that Russia had used the platform to spread disinformation.

Zuckerberg added that the platform would also be making an effort to actively stamp out any organization of violence on its platform. “We’re trying to make sure that we do our part to make sure that none of this is organized on Facebook,” he said.

In a set of precautions outlined by the social-media giant on Thursday, Facebook said it would crack down on QAnon conspiracy groups and militias in the run-up to the election.

“The country is very charged right now,” he said. “I think regardless of what we do there is some chance that this happens across the country — I just want to make sure that we do our part to not contribute to it.”

Also among the precautionary measures announced by Facebook on Thursday was the new policy that it would not allow any new political ads in the seven days before the election. This drew fire from the Trump campaign, which claimed the policy would muzzle the president and make him “banned from defending himself on the largest platform in America.”

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