On Thursday, mere hours after the Facebook CEO announced “additional steps” to “fight misinformation” ahead of the U.S. presidential election, Trump used the platform to spread confusion about the U.S. election process. In response, instead of removing the content as the company implied it would, Facebook slapped a toothless label below Trump’s message.
At issue is a post from Trump’s official Facebook page, which can be read as encouraging people to vote twice in the upcoming election.
“On Election Day, or Early Voting, go to your Polling Place to see whether or not your Mail In Vote has been Tabulated (Counted),” wrote Trump in his Thursday Facebook post. “If it has you will not be able to Vote & the Mail In System worked properly. If it has not been Counted, VOTE (which is a citizen’s right to do).”
Trump was in North Carolina on Wednesday, and in an interview with WECT-TV, Trump appeared to encourage people to try to vote twice. As the North Carolina State Board of Elections made clear on Thursday, “It is illegal to vote twice in an election.” What’s more, intentionally doing so is a felony in the state.
Notably, Zuckerberg said the company would remove “implicit misrepresentations about voting too, like ‘I hear anybody with a driver’s license gets a ballot this year’, because it might mislead you about what you need to do to get a ballot, even if that wouldn’t necessarily invalidate your vote by itself.”
We asked Facebook if Trump’s post, which can be read as instructing some voters to both mail in a ballot and vote in person before the election, falls into the category of “implicit misrepresentations about voting.”
In response, a Facebook spokesperson pointed us to a tweet from New York Times reporter Mike Isaac.
“[Trump’s] post tells people to check if their votes have been counted and if not,” reads the tweet, “they can vote.”
some clarity here, drawn in fine lines:
Looking at Trump’s post on FB from today, it is different than what he said yesterday during the rally explicitly telling people to vote twice. his post tells people to check
if their votes have been counted and if not, they can vote. https://t.co/3hTRjljnZt
— rat king (@MikeIsaac) September 3, 2020
We followed up with Facebook, again asking the company to explain its logic, but received no immediate response. Even if Facebook is making the argument (which the company is not, on the record, doing in response to questions from Mashable) that Trump’s statement is technically not telling people to vote twice, it could be read as doing just that — as Twitter pointed out Thursday in response to a series of Trump tweets.
Facebook did have a very public response to Trump’s post, however, in the form of the aforementioned label.
“Voting by mail has a long history of trustworthiness in the US and the same is predicted this year,” read the label, which mentioned nothing about voting twice.
Clicking the link associated with the label takes you to Facebook’s generic “Voting Information Center,” which does not directly address Trump’s post.
Twitter, on the other hand, hid a similar message from Trump under a warning text.
“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about civic and election integrity,” read the label. “However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
Anyone interested could select “Learn more” or “View.”
Selecting “View” shows you Trump’s tweets. Selecting “Lean More” brings you to an explanation from the Twitter Safety account.
“We placed a public interest notice on two Tweets in this thread for violating our Civic Integrity Policy,” it reads, “specifically for encouraging people to potentially vote twice.”
The laws regarding the invalidation of mail-in ballots when individuals choose to vote in person are complex, and vary significantly by state. Our goal is to prevent people from sharing advice about voting twice, which may be illegal.
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) September 3, 2020
Facebook’s inability to hold Trump to account for encouraging people to, in some cases, possibly commit election fraud doesn’t bode well for the presidential contest. If today’s label from Facebook is any indication of what’s to come, it’s going to be a long two months.