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Facebook will now let users turn off political ads

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his social media company is gearing up for the 2020 election by rolling out an option for users to turn off political ads and launching an initiative to increase voter turnout.

In an op-ed for USA Today, Zuckerberg said users will be able to switch off political ads, a tool it first introduced earlier this year in January.

Over the next few weeks, people will have the option to disable “all social issues, electoral or political ads from candidates, Super PACs, or other organizations that have the ‘Paid for by’ political disclaimer”. You will find this setting on the ad itself or inside any platform’s ad preferences.

Facebook is also launching a new Voting Information Center that will offer resources on when and how to vote, as well as updates from officials.

“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. I believe Facebook has a responsibility not just to prevent voter suppression — which disproportionately targets people of color — but also to actively support well-informed voter engagement, registration, and turnout,” Zuckerburg wrote.

The social media company says it wants to help register four million voters this year — double from the estimated two million people it claims it guided in 2016 and 2018 — with “authoritative information” across its platforms including Messenger, Instagram, and Facebook.

The Voting Information Center, which will sit on top of users’ feeds, will be based on the same model Facebook designed for the COVID-19 Information Center. In addition to resources on registering to vote, mail-in ballots, and more, Facebook says it is working with state election officials and experts to include the latest local announcements.

In defense of his policy to not fact-check or verify political ads in any way, Zuckerburg continues to stick to its free expression argument and said he wants to keep the platform as open as possible to let voters make judgments for themselves.

“Accountability only works if we can see what those seeking our votes are saying, even if we viscerally dislike what they say,” he wrote. “Ultimately, I believe the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting.”

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