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Facebook says it won't mess with voters' minds

The social network, which has messed with its users' emotional state in the past, says it would never meddle with what users see to keep Donald Trump from getting elected president of the US.

25 Feb 2016, Berlin, Germany --- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking at the Facebook Innovation Hub in Berlin, Germany, 25 February 2016. Zuckerberg presented studies on Artificial Intelligence inter alia. PHOTO: KAY NIETFELD/dpa --- Image by © Kay Nietfeld/dpa/Corbis
© Kay Nietfeld/dpa/Corbis

How reassuring.

Facebook said Friday it wouldn't use its algorithms to influence voting in the US presidential election this November. "We as a company are neutral," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. "We have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote."

That statement comes after a Gizmodo report about a weekly internal poll at Facebook. Employees considered questions they should bring before CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and among them, reportedly, was, "What responsibility does Facebook have to help prevent President Trump in 2017?" Facebook didn't respond to a request to confirm the question was actually in the poll.

Facebook and the US presidential elections became a topic of discussion this week after Zuckerberg spoke at the company's F8 developer conference. The CEO took a veiled shot at Republican front-runner Donald Trump by calling out "fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others." The Trump campaign responded by saying Zuckerberg should give up living in a "posh neighborhood and come live in a modest neighborhood near a border town."

The social network's ability to manipulate what users see on Facebook has come under fire in the past. The company admitted in 2014 that researchers changed some of the posts in users' feeds and tested whether that influenced the overall tone of what those users then wrote. (It did. Nearly 700,000 people were guinea pigs in the study, without knowing they were being studied.)

But while Facebook has the ability to toy with its 1.6 billion users, it's now clarifying that voting is too sacred a civic institution to influence.

Also, it would like politicians to keep using its site.

"Voting is a core value of democracy and we believe that supporting civic participation is an important contribution we can make to the community," Facebook said in its statement. "We encourage any and all candidates, groups and voters to use our platform to share their views on the election and debate the issues."