Facebook is apparently preparing to break out the emergency tool kit to deal with the 2020 U.S. election.
These internal tools, typically reserved for use in “at-risk” countries, help to slow down the spread of viral misinformation related to an election or other major event, The Wall Street Journal reports. Sources “familiar with the matter” say the company is ready to implement those tools if needed as the 2020 election concludes.
As part of the process, Facebook will not only slow down the spread of posts as they go viral, but will also alter the news feed to change the type of content that appears. Additionally, the company might also “lower the threshold” for what its software considers to be dangerous content.
Essentially, the tools are meant to help limit the amount of exposure Facebook users have to posts that contain misinformation, sensationalism, and calls for violence. While that seems like the responsible approach, WSJ‘s sources say that Facebook employees feel uneasy because it “could suppress some good-faith political discussion.”
But the tech giant isn’t pulling out the tools just yet — Facebook executives said they would only carry out the changes “in dire circumstances,” such as if violence erupted in relation to the election. But the company does need to be prepared for all types of situations as well.
This also wouldn’t be the first time Facebook had plans to combat misinformation prepared ahead of an election. As noted by WSJ, the company developed tools for the 2018 midterm elections as well, such as turning off Facebook group recommendations, but they were never used.
Even if the social media company does decide to break out the internal tools for the 2020 election, it remains to be seen if the public is even notified. We likely won’t hear anything as events unfold if the company doesn’t feel it’s in the public interest.
Regardless, it’s clear that Facebook is bracing itself for whatever this fraught election may bring.