Are social media platforms ready for the midterms? (VIDEO)
As Americans prepare for the midterm elections, many social media platforms are stepping up cybersecurity to protect voters.
For much of the 20th century, news traveled through a handful of national television and radio networks, and most major cities had multiple newspapers. To make their voice heard, the average person can write a letter to the editor or organize a protest. News agencies helped determine what was known to be true and false.
But now, social media gives anyone an instant global megaphone. And the algorithms that govern news on major platforms can amplify claims that leaders, including presidents, have considered threats to democracy.
“Each of us, whether we work in a technology company or we consume social networks, whether we are a parent, a legislator, an advertiser on one of these platforms, this is the time to choose sides. We have the choice right now. do we let our democracy wither or do we improve it?” said former President Barack Obama.
During the 2016 elections, the Russian government used social media to try to influence and disrupt US elections.
“A private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to interfere in the election,” former FBI Director Robert Mueller said.
“During the 2016 election cycle, the Russian Internet Research Agency spent a total of approximately $100,000 over two years on Facebook ads to promote social discord and division, and also placed posts and disguised tweets across multiple social media platforms,” said Jeffrey Rosen, a former U.S. deputy attorney general.
Since then, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have assembled teams to crack down on foreign abuse and remove foreign actors from their platforms.
“We believe in freedom of speech. We believe in free debate and conversation to find the truth. At the same time, we must balance this with our desire that our service not be used to confuse, divide or destruction. This makes the freedom of moderate content essential for us,” said Jack Dorsey, founder and former CEO of Twitter.
But Dorsey’s so-called balancing act didn’t stop the problem. In the 2020 election, researchers found 456 separate articles alleging the electoral system had been corrupted by fraud or abuse. The claims were amplified by 49 million tweets.
The biggest misinformation story was an allegation that began with what Michigan election officials concluded was a temporary error in vote counting by a County Antrim official.
The allegation was that software provided by Dominion Voting Systems had systematically changed votes for then-President Trump to votes for Joe Biden, which was false.
But the story has been thrust into the national spotlight, seen by tens of millions of people on social media. Findings published in the journal Quantitative Description show the spread of Dominion misinformation stories on Twitter. And those tweets amplified those claims and contributed to what some lawmakers are calling an attack on offline democracy.
On January 6, during the insurgency, President Trump posted a video on Facebook and Instagram.
“We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a crushing election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side, but you have to go home now,” former President Donald Trump said.
This led Twitter, Twitch and Youtube to take an unprecedented step by banning a President of the United States from using their platforms.
Now, as we approach the 2022 midterm, are the platforms ready?
Twitter announced in August that it would add new tags offering debunking content to tweets that may include misinformation and “prebunks” that add prompts to clarify voting procedures. Facebook and Instagram have implemented a new process to allow ads on political issues or races.
Tiktok has banned political advertising since 2019, and in September it tightened its rules around using the platform to solicit campaign donations.
But a new report has revealed that the platforms aren’t doing enough.
New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights calls on platforms to increase their transparency and allow independent audits of their procedures, strengthen their fact-checking, and remove what they call “obviously” content. fake “.
But social media platforms see their role as more limited.
“People often say things that are not verifiably true, but speak from their lived experiences. I think we have to be careful to restrict that. For example, if someone feels intimidated or discriminated against while voting, I think he should be able to share his experience, even if the election was overall fair. I don’t think anyone wants a world in which you can only say things that private companies believe to be true,” said Mark Zuckerberg , Chairman and CEO of Meta.
These private companies now serve as a digital public square. They could determine the health of national democracy starting with the 2022 midterm elections.