Pattern Matching

Facebook Is Already Preparing for a Biden Presidency

How the prospect of a “blue wave” is changing content moderation.

Will Oremus
Published in
9 min readOct 17, 2020
Photo: Jim Watson/Getty Images

Up until two weeks ago, Facebook was a place where QAnon conspiracy groups flourished, aided by its recommendation algorithms; where you could pay to promote anti-vaccine misinformation; where Holocaust denial was treated as a legitimate political opinion; and where conservative news outlets were known to get a pass on rule enforcement to avoid upsetting the right.

As of today, none of those things are true. A series of dramatic policy reversals by the dominant social network, followed by an aggressive crackdown on a dubious New York Post story alleging corruption by the Biden family, amount to a transformation in the company’s official posture toward online speech (if not the underlying dynamics that make it such a potent vector for misinformation). One year after Mark Zuckerberg delivered a full-throated defense of free speech at Georgetown University, emphatically rejecting calls to broaden restrictions on what views Facebook users can express, his company has done just that. The moves to ban QAnon accounts, ban anti-vaxx ads, and ban content that “denies or distorts the Holocaust” come on top of recently announced bans of post-election political ads and ads that attempt to delegitimize U.S. election results.

What, some observers wondered, could account for the sudden shift? No doubt some of these changes had been in the works for a while and were moving along separate tracks within the organization. But the timing cannot be pure coincidence. The moves come just as Biden has firmly reestablished himself as the heavy favorite to win the presidency in three weeks, and amid growing odds of a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress. The changes position Facebook to better defend itself against a potential president and party that has raised the specter of regulations that could seriously damage its business.

The Pattern

Social platforms are hedging against a potential Biden presidency.

  • After four years of trying to appease Trump and Congressional Republicans who cry “censorship” over fact-checks, the major internet platforms now face