With the midterm elections less than a month away, Facebook has been pushing voting information to the top of social media feeds across Alabama. However, not everyone has been getting these notifications, and state election officials aren't sure how Facebook picks its targets.
"We have a dedicated team focused on the midterms and hundreds of people working to help combat election and voter interference while also helping people have a voice and infrastructure," Meta, Facebook's parent company, stated in a press release.
In Alabama, Facebook users may see a graphic with a link at the top of their feed reminding them to register to vote. When they click the link, it connects straight to the Secretary of State's website.
Secretary of State John Merrill said he has no control over the reminders or who sees them.
"It's something that's produced by Facebook, not something that we're doing," Merrill said
Meta said in 2022 that it has worked with state election officials to make sure they are prepared for different scenarios. However, Merrill said Meta had not coordinated any of this with his office.
"One of the things they don't necessarily do is coordinate with state and local folks related to the issue," Merrill told 1819 News.
In 2017, the Secretary of State's Office did ask Facebook to direct users to the Alabama Secretary of State's website instead of other voting information pages.
"They corrected that," Merrill added.
When 1819 News contacted Meta to ask how the algorithms work on the voter information link, those questions were not directly answered. However, the company did provide information already available on the Meta website.
Social media influence has been a concern for officials in Alabama since claims were made that donations from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, may have influenced the 2020 elections. Reportedly, contributions totaling some $350 million were given to election officials across the country.
The donations, later known as "Zuckerbucks," were also challenged by Gov. Kay Ivey, who claimed the vast majority of those dollars went to counties won by Joe Biden.
"Big tech's efforts to undermine the integrity of our elections has no place in our country," Ivey said at the time. "And I'm proud to have signed legislation that ensures Alabama's election process remains airtight."
That legislation, House Bill 194, was signed in April. It prohibits state and local election officials from accepting private donations to fund election-related expenses.
This summer, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) denied the donations were distributed unevenly and said any claim that may have been the case is "speculative at best."
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