Facebook has said it will flag posts from “newsworthy” politicians that break its rules, including those from US President Donald Trump.
The move came as a number of major advertisers joined a call to boycott the social network.
Facebook‘s CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously shown reluctance to take action against Mr Trump, saying people should be able to read or watch statements from political leaders without them being filtered.
Twitter, meanwhile, has for the last month been stepping in and labelling any of Mr Trump’s tweets it deems break its rules.
Until Friday, posts that had been flagged on Twitter remained unmediated on Facebook, which had led to criticism from Mr Trump’s opponents and some Facebook employees.
On Friday night, Mr Zuckerberg said he was taking action to “help everyone stay safe, stay informed, and ultimately use their voice where it matters most – voting”.
He said in a post: “The policies we’re implementing today are designed to address the reality of the challenges our country is facing and how they’re showing up across our community.”
He said the new rules would aim to do four things: provide “authoritative information on voting during the pandemic”; fight “voter suppression”; create “a higher standard for hateful content in ads”; and label “newsworthy content”.
The US election is due to take place in November and, in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that has left the country with the highest number of deaths in the world, some have expressed concerns about misinformation and a growing amount of hate speech circulating on the site.
Mr Zuckerberg said the new rules would not mean “newsworthy” posts that violate its regulations would be taken down, as “seeing speech from politicians is in the public interest”.
But he added: “We will soon start labelling some of the content we leave up because it is deemed newsworthy, so people can know when this is the case. We’ll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content… but we’ll add a prompt to tell people that the content they’re sharing may violate our policies.”
Following criticism the social network was not doing enough to speedily remove hate speech, Mr Zuckerberg added: “We’re prohibiting a wider category of hateful content in ads. Specifically… to prohibit claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others.
“We’re also expanding our policies to better protect immigrants, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.”
Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever, which includes Ben and Jerry’s and Dove in its stable, was among the firms which had expressed concern, saying it would suspend Facebook advertising until the end of the year.
It came amid a growing ad boycott campaign called “Stop Hate for Profit” that was started by several US civil rights groups to pressure Facebook to act on hate speech and misinformation.
A monitor said more than 90 firms, including Unilever, Honda and The North Face, had joined an ads boycott and on Friday night Coca-Cola also said it would be temporarily suspending ads.
The president of one of the groups behind the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, Color of Change president Rashad Robinson, said Mr Zuckerberg had not gone far enough.
Mr Robinson tweeted: “If this the response he’s giving to major advertisers withdrawing millions of dollars from the company, we can’t trust his leadership.”