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Facebook expands hate speech rules amidst advertiser boycott

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FILE - In this May 16, 2012, file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad
FILE - In this May 16, 2012, file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad   -   Copyright  Matt Rourke/AP Photo
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Facebook has announced new efforts to tackle hate speech and disinformation on its platform including stating that it would label newsworthy posts from politicians that break the rules on their platform.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously refused to flag US President Donald Trump's posts that claimed that voting by mail-in ballots would lead to increased voter fraud because he said people should be able to see unfiltered content.

Social media giant Twitter, on the other hand, did flag the same posts on its platform with a link for users to get more information about mail-in voting.

Now, Zuckerberg says that politicians are not exempt from its new rules on voting information.

"To clarify one point: there is no newsworthiness exemption to content that incites violence or suppresses voting. Even if a politician or government official says it, if we determine that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we will take that content down," Zuckerberg wrote on his platform, while announcing the changes.

The company also expanded their definition of hateful content including content that suggests someone of a specific race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nation, or ethnicity is "a threat to the physical safety."

The decision also comes amidst mounting pressure from advertising companies that have said they would boycott social media due to divisive hate speech content.

European multinational company Unilever recently pulled advertising from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the US, sending the companies' stocks falling.

"The polarised atmosphere in the US puts an increased responsibility on brands to learn, respond and act to drive a trusted and safe digital ecosystem," Unilever wrote in a statement.

"Change cannot happen overnight. We will continue to work with the platforms to create lasting solutions that will address divisiveness and hate speech."

The Coca-Cola Company, meanwhile, said they would pause advertising on all social media platforms globally for at least 30 days.

"There is no place for racism in the world and there is no place for racism on social media. The Coca-Cola Company will pause paid advertising on all social media platforms globally for at least 30 days," the company said in a statement.

Facebook's changes will also focus on fighting voter suppression and providing important information on voting.

"We're creating a Voting Information Center to share authoritative information on how and when you can vote, including voter registration, voting by mail and early voting," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page.

They will also ban false claims that discourage people from heading to the polls, Zuckerberg said.

The US is currently the most impacted country by the coronavirus pandemic and is in the midst of an election year. Voting has continued in the primaries leading up to a general presidential election in November where Donald Trump is up for re-election.

Facebook played an important role in the 2016 election where Russian bots on its platform spread misinformation.