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Many states are planning on drastically different elections this year and mail-in ballots could be a big game changer. USA TODAY

I believe Facebook can strengthen democracy by maintaining as open a platform as possible, accompanied by ambitious efforts to lift voter participation.

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The 2020 election is going to be unlike any other. It was already going to be a heated campaign, and that was before the pandemic — and before the killing of George Floyd and so many others forced us yet again to confront the painful reality of systemic racism in America. People want accountability, and in a democracy the ultimate way we do that is through voting.

With so much of our discourse taking place online, I believe platforms like Facebook can play a positive role in this election by helping Americans use their voice where it matters most — by voting. We're announcing on Wednesday the largest voting information campaign in American history. Our goal is to help 4 million people register to vote. As we take on this effort, I want to outline our civic responsibilities:

►First, we're encouraging people to vote. Voting is voice. It's the single most powerful expression of democracy, the best way to hold our leaders accountable and how we address many of the issues our country is grappling with. I believe Facebook has a responsibility not just to prevent voter suppression — which disproportionately targets people of color — but also to actively support well-informed voter engagement, registration and turnout. 

Voting details on Facebook, Instagram

To achieve this, we're creating a new Voting Information Center with authoritative information, including how and when to vote, as well as details about voter registration, voting by mail and information about early voting. We'll also include posts from state election officials and verified local election authorities. We'll show this center at the top of the Facebook News Feed and on Instagram to make sure everyone gets a chance to see it.

Overall, we expect more than 160 million people in the United States will see authoritative information on Facebook about how to vote in the general election from July through November. This is in addition to reminders to register, information about voting by mail, and Election Day reminders that we've run through the primaries and will run for the general election as well.

This work is sorely needed: We surveyed adults in the United States, and more than half said they believe people will need more information on how to vote in November than in previous elections. Our efforts should help everyone who uses our platform access reliable voting information, not just communities where participation is already high. 

Resolve to vote: Don't let Trump and coronavirus ruin the election. High turnout is bipartisan and doable.

►Second, we have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the vote itself. In 2016, we were slow to identify foreign interference on our platform. Since then, we've built some of the most advanced systems in the world to protect against election interference — investing billions of dollars in technology and hiring tens of thousands of people to work on safety and security. We've learned from this experience and have protected against interference in more than 200 elections around the world.

The threat of election interference is real and ongoing, but our systems are more prepared than ever. We took down more than 50 networks of malicious accounts in 2019, and we’ve removed 18 this year. This work is never finished, but we've learned a lot and have adapted our systems to protect against interference.

Best way to hold leaders accountable

►Finally, we remain committed to giving everyone a voice. This is especially true for those who haven't historically had the ability to make their voices heard. Every election is a conversation about what we care about as a country — and every day millions of Americans participate in that conversation on Facebook. Free expression is part of the messy process of democracy, and we take our responsibility to protect it incredibly seriously. 

Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content. We have rules against speech that will cause imminent physical harm or suppress voting, and no one is exempt from them. But accountability only works if we can see what those seeking our votes are saying, even if we viscerally dislike what they say.

Ultimately, I believe the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting, and I believe we should trust voters to make judgments for themselves. That's why I think we should maintain as open a platform as possible, accompanied by ambitious efforts to boost voter participation.

Election protection: Amid the coronavirus, all Americans should vote by mail in fall 2020

By giving people a voice, registering and turning out voters, and preventing interference, I believe Facebook is supporting and strengthening our democracy in 2020 and beyond. And for those of you who've already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you — so we're also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads. We'll still remind you to vote.

Mark Zuckerberg is co-founder and CEO of Facebook.

(USA TODAY is part of Facebook's third-party fact-checking program.)

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

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