Facebook Inc. has clarified its rules and said it won’t flag President Trump or any other individual who declares victory for a candidate in battleground states before votes are counted.
In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, the company said its existing policy against premature declarations of victory on its site was only ever meant to apply to the overall result of the presidential election, not individual states.
Facebook hadn’t spelled out that detail of the policy, which took on increasing significance late Tuesday as the tight presidential race looked increasingly as if it might come down to the vote in one or two contested states.
The social-media giant issued the statement after the Trump campaign and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared President Trump the winner in that state, at a time when major media outlets were reporting that Trump was ahead in Florida but hadn’t declared a victor.
The clarification–which Facebook announced two hours after the Journal raised questions about some Republicans posting on the platform declaring a Florida victory–would allow either candidate or their prominent supporters to proclaim the winner of battleground states while the outcome is actually in dispute.
“A policy that doesn’t apply to individual states is not very useful in a contest that might come down to one state,” said Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and former chief security officer at Facebook.
For months ahead of the election, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the platform wouldn’t allow claims at odds with the formal counting results. While the company wouldn’t challenge such claims directly, Mr. Zuckerberg said, it would provide an “informational label” noting that votes were still being counted. The company further said it intended to only call races after a consensus had been reached among major media outlets and decision desks.
In its statement on Tuesday, the company said it would only label posts in which users prematurely declare the national race to be entirely over.
Facebook’s plan “is to address premature calls for the final result of the presidential race,” the company said. “For other posts we are applying labels directing people to them in the Voting Information Center where they can see what races have been called.”