Facebook executives have said such tools would only be used in “dire circumstances” including election-related violence, however they insist the company needs to be fully prepared for any eventuality
With the US presidential scheduled to take place on 3 November, social media platform Facebook is planning for the possibility of "civil unrest" in the days following next month's election and has set up teams whose role it will be to calm any "election-related conflict" in the US.
The emergency measures include a deliberate slowing of the spread of viral content as well as lowering the bar for suppressing potentially inflammatory posts, reports the Daily Mail citing the Wall Street Journal.
Under this move, the company will be able to deploy various internal tools which can push "at risk" material lower down people's feed or block or remove links altogether. However, there will be no obvious difference to users on the site on a daily basis.
According to the WSJ report, Facebook might also consider lowering the threshold for detecting the types of content its software views as "dangerous".
Facebook executives have said such tools would only be used in "dire circumstances" including election-related violence, however they insist the company needs to be fully prepared for any eventuality.
Ultimately, the tools would alter what Americans see when logging onto the site and would reduce their exposure to sensationalism, incitements to violence and misinformation. However, it could also suppress some political discussion.
"We have spent years building for safer, more secure elections," Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said.
"We have applied lessons from previous elections, hired experts, and built new teams with experience across different areas to prepare for various scenarios."
Facebook often makes adjustments to its algorithms that adjust the engagement of its users as well as banning and penalizing those who are deemed "bad actors", however such behind the scenes moves are rarely discussed in public unless they are of public interest.
The company has already has critics from both political parties in the US, and any widespread attempt to regulate content is likely to provoke further scrutiny.
Facebook came under intense pressure earlier this month including from the president after it deliberately slowed the spread of a New York Post article related to Joe Biden's son, Hunter.
The company said that its actions were in keeping with rules that it detailed last year to prevent election interference.
"We need to be doing everything that we can to reduce the chances of violence or civil unrest in the wake of this election," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Axios last month.
Facebook's global head of communications and policy, Nick Clegg, said that the company had created "break-glass tools" in the event of a crisis but would not elaborate "because it will no doubt elicit greater sense of anxiety than we hope will be warranted."
Last week, Zuckerberg admitted that the election coupled with the pandemic had led the company to limit speech more than usual and that such parameters would be once again relaxed after the election.