Zuckerberg Hopes Facebook Will Help Register 4 Million Voters

(Bloomberg) -- Mark Zuckerberg hopes Facebook Inc.’s social networks will spur 4 million Americans to sign up as new voters before the 2020 U.S. election, double the number the company claims to have helped register before the 2016 election and 2018 U.S. midterms.

“Voting is voice. It’s the single most powerful expression of democracy, the best way to hold our leaders accountable, and how we address many of the issues our country is grappling with,” Zuckerberg, Facebook chief executive officer, wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday by USA Today. “I believe Facebook has a responsibility not just to prevent voter suppression -- which disproportionately targets people of color -- but to actively support well-informed voter engagement, registration, and turnout.”

The company will put a new voting information hub at the top of U.S. users’ Facebook and Instagram feeds beginning next month as part of the effort. Users who click on the hub will see information about voting, including how to register in their states and details about mail-in ballots. The company said it will collect and share reliable information from state and local election authorities.

Zuckerberg first announced the hub publicly in early June, though it has been in development for a year, said Emily Dalton Smith, a Facebook product executive working on the feature. The company estimates its voter information will reach 160 million people in the U.S. from July through November. The company isn’t targeting voters of any specific age, gender or racial group, she added.

Zuckerberg has been criticized for leaving up a series of posts from U.S. President Donald Trump, including one that Twitter Inc. flagged for containing misleading information about mail-in ballots. It was the first time Twitter had ever labeled the president’s tweets, but Facebook left the same posts unchallenged.

The company has made the 2020 election one of its top priorities after foreign actors used the social network to sow division among voters in 2016. It has made numerous changes to protect the integrity of elections, including a new application process for running political ads, but has still been criticized for enabling misinformation on the platform. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden castigated Facebook last week, saying the company has allowed Trump “and his allies” to lie on the service. Facebook has a policy that the company will not fact-check political ads from politicians.

Zuckerberg has said that voters need to hear what politicians have to say and make up their own minds. He repeated that philosophy Tuesday. “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, and I believe we should trust voters to make judgments for themselves.”

Facebook also announced in January that users who don’t want to see political ads can hide them from their feed; that feature will begin rolling out Wednesday in the U.S.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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