On Tuesday, Facebook added an info label to one of Donald Trump’s posts about mail-in voting. Given that Trump has already suggested mail-in voting could lead to an increase in voter fraud (though there is no actual evidence supporting this claim), as well as that our election may be “rigged” in November, it’s not a huge surprise that his Facebook post claimed that mail-in voting “unless changed by the courts will lead to the most CORRUPT ELECTION in our Nation’s History,” with the phrase RIGGEDELECTION hashtagged, as reported by Reuters. What’s actually surprising is that Facebook placed an info label on it—but Trump isn’t the only person who got one.
Facebook added a label to Trump’s post that directs site users to an official U.S. government website where they can read about how to vote in elections in 2020. This label does not explicitly fact-check or challenge Trump’s post. It’s a relative win, however, when we consider Facebook’s refusal to fact-check posts paid for by politicians. This particular post got a label, however, because Facebook is labeling posts by federal elected officials, as well as by candidates, to assist in the fight against voter suppression. As The Washington Post points out, a post from former Vice President Joe Biden got the same info label on Tuesday. Eventually, TechCrunch reports, Facebook will add this info label to all posts about voting, not only at the federal level. Now, that’s all well and good, but it’s still not actually labeling posts as outright misinformation.
Recently, Trump declined to say he would accept the results of the 2020 election during an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News. In the same interview, he said, “I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election. I really do.” Previously, Trump has said that mail-in voting is “corrupt” and “horrible,” though he himself voted by mail in Florida’s election in March. Trump has threatened federal funding in some states—namely, Michigan and Nevada—over their respective secretaries of states’ plans to make it easier to vote by mail. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee encouraged residents of Pennsylvania to vote by mail.
The greater context, of course, is that it’s far from the first time Facebook—and CEO Mark Zuckerberg—have been called out for lagging behind in fact-checking and labeling. Twitter, for example, has labeled one of Trump’s tweets as a “threat of harm” against protesters in Washington, D.C. Twitter has also labeled Trump tweets about mail-in voting (see a common theme with him?) as “potentially misleading.” Facebook, however, has simply allowed people to block political ads if they don’t want to see them. A number of progressives have challenged Facebook to reform its fact-checking policy when it comes to politicians; at one point, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren bought an ad falsely claiming Zuckberg endorsed Trump.