Facebook has “some break-glass options available” including limiting the spread of certain content if the November election results in political instability, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s head of global affairs, told The Financial Times on Tuesday.
“There are some break-glass options available to us if there really is an extremely chaotic and, worse still, violent set of circumstances,” Clegg said.
Clegg noted that Facebook had acted aggressively in “other parts of the world” where there’s been instability, using what he called “pretty exceptional measures to significantly restrict the circulation of content on our platform." He did not provide any examples.
His comments echo previous warnings from Facebook that it was preparing for scenarios where the winner of the presidential race isn’t initially known or is in dispute. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in August that he believed there was “significant risk of civil unrest” leading up to the election.
Facebook already restricts the spread of many kinds of material on its services, from posts that promote violence by the Boogaloo extremist movement to posts that try to spread the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.
The Financial Times likened the potential action to what Facebook has done in response to unrest in countries such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar, limiting “borderline content” that was sensationalist but did not quite breach Facebook’s ban on hate speech.
Facebook declined to provide additional comment.
Facebook has continued to roll out new measures and policies as the U.S. election nears. This month, Facebook said that if any candidate or campaign tried to declare victory before the final results were in, it would add a label to their posts directing people to the official results from Reuters and the National Election Pool.
About 43 percent of Americans get news from Facebook, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey.