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Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan donate $300M to promote safe, secure elections

Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan donate $300M to promote safe, secure elections
© getty: Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan

Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergAdvocacy group accuses Facebook of fueling anti-Muslim hate Texas GOP move to overhaul voting laws: What you need to know Congress must come together and protect our children on social media MORE and his wife, Priscilla Chan, on Tuesday announced that they donated $300 million to two elections-focused groups to promote safe and secure elections amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The couple donated $250 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life to help recruit and train poll workers, and ensure polling sites have the voting equipment needed to hold elections. 

Zuckerberg and Chan also donated $50 million to the Center for Election Innovation and Research that will be sent to the offices of secretaries of states across the country to boost election security and voter information efforts. 

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“I'm concerned that our country's election infrastructure faces many new challenges this year because of the Covid pandemic,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “There will be historic levels of voting by mail, and increased need for poll workers and equipment to support contact-free voting.”

“Election officials across the country are working hard to ensure that everyone can vote and every vote can be counted -- and we want to help make sure they have the resources they need to do this,” he added.

Facebook has been heavily criticized for not doing enough to curb the spread of misinformation around voting, and in particular has faced allegations that it has not been strict enough on posts from world leaders, including those from President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: McConnell 'helpless' to stop Biden from packing court Romney on NRSC awarding Trump: Not 'my preference' McConnell sidesteps Trump calling him 'dumb son of a b----' MORE.

The platform has taken steps to address these concerns, including announcing a policy in June to label but leave up “newsworthy” posts, including those from politicians. 

Facebook has also expanded labels on posts around voting, created an election center on Facebook to serve as a central hub for voting information, and vowed to remove any posts that show evidence of coordinated election interference through voter intimidation or spreading false information around polling sites. 

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Zuckerberg noted in the post Tuesday that the donation was made in addition to Facebook’s efforts to “run the largest voting registration campaign in American history,” with a goal to register more than 4 million people to vote. 

The donation was announced after months of back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans over sending states more federal funds to address new challenges to elections from the pandemic.

In March, Congress appropriated $400 million to states to address some of these challenges, which was in addition to more than $800 million sent to states by Congress since 2018 to shore up election security. 

The House-passed HEROES Act stimulus bill includes a further $3.6 billion for election efforts, but the proposed Senate Republican stimulus bill does not include any funds, with Republicans citing concerns around federalizing elections. 

Experts have argued that states need a further $3.6 billion to successfully put on elections this year, particularly as states face budget shortfalls, and state and local election officials have repeatedly begged for funds. 

Top election officials welcomed the donation on Tuesday, with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) saying in a statement that “this grant will be of tremendous assistance as we work to get the word out to voters, and help them plan for a successful voting experience.”

“In a time when so much is changing around us, Americans need to know now more than ever how to make their voice heard in this fall’s election,” Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) said in a separate statement. “That requires getting them the information they need from trusted sources, and these dollars are going to go a long way to making that happen.”