Media platforms

Leadership conference and democracy groups urge social media platforms to tackle voter misinformation ahead of midterms

View the PDF of the letter here.

Mr. Zuckerberg, Mr. Pichai, Ms. Wojcicki, Mr. Agrawal, Mr. Chew, Mr. Spiegel and Mr. Mosseri:

On behalf of civil rights, public interest, voting rights, and other undersigned organizations, we urge each of your businesses to take immediate action to curb the spread of election misinformation during the midterm elections and future and to help prevent the weakening of our democracy. In May this year, a coalition of more than 120 organizations called on your platforms to take several positive steps well before the midterm elections to combat electoral disinformation. While your companies have recently made announcements regarding 2022 policy updates to combat election misinformation, we have yet to see meaningful steps on the actions we requested in our letter.

The 2022 midterm elections are only weeks away, but online misinformation continues to confuse, intimidate and harass voters, suppress the right to vote, and otherwise disrupt our democracy. Stories of misinformation about voting procedures and policies continue to proliferate, including misinformation about the use and safety of mail-in ballots, ballot boxes, and ballot collection. False preemptive allegations of fraud are now spreading ahead of elections, and election workers are increasingly harassed online. We expect misinformation to only increase as the midterm elections draw closer.

Over the past few weeks, many of your companies have announced updates to their election interference and disinformation policies. We appreciate that you have taken the time to post the policies publicly; policies demonstrate that your companies understand the importance of addressing election misinformation. But as we have consistently asserted over the past two years, policies have little to no effect unless you apply them continuously and consistently.

Additionally, most updates are largely similar to what was announced in 2020. We appreciate the emphasis on directing users to authoritative sources on voting and elections, which we have asked in the past. However, there is very little guidance or discussion about what will be done specifically to curb or prevent election misinformation as it occurs. Policies that direct users to authoritative sources, while helpful, are not adequate unless steps are taken to directly reduce the posting and dissemination of false voting information.

Additionally, there is very little in your 2022 policies that reflects the current and new challenges we face as we approach mid-term. Many of the bad actors and election deniers have continued and escalated their dissemination of false information online since 2020, and some are even appearing on ballots for the 2022 election. Platform policies and actions must do more to specifically address against these trends in 2022 and beyond.

As the November 8 midterm elections approach, platforms must take immediate action on the steps below. This list is not exhaustive, but it includes urgent needs that require attention before the mid-terms:

Fighting the “Big Lie”: The big lie, the false narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Trump, is now embedded in our political discourse. Candidates continue to use the Big Lie as a platform to preemptively report voter fraud to challenge the 2022 election results. In fact, more than 100 GOP primary winners supporting false allegations of voter fraud, and 60% of Americans will have a Holocaust denier in his midterm ballot in November. It undermines American democracy by undermining confidence in the integrity of our elections.

Misinformation around the 2022 midterm elections is inextricably linked to misinformation around the 2020 presidential election, with bad actors recycling many of the false claims made just two years prior. Recent to research states that a small group of users are responsible for much of the misinformation being spread about voting and elections. Your companies say they understand the issues and concerns about the big lie, but that’s not reflected in many of your recent political announcements. In fact, research and investigative reports have revealed that Facebook and Twitter no longer enforce content around the Big Lie. Platform civic integrity policies that focus only on the current election cycle and fail to combat the big lie are ineffective. Additionally, content that focuses on the big lie is not based on opinion but rather false pretense and should be actionable under each of your civic integrity policies. Platforms need to be much more vigilant and take immediate action to suppress and curb misinformation that propagates and amplifies the Big Lie.

Prevent misinformation targeting non-English speaking communities: Non-English language misinformation has continued to spread beyond the 2020 election. The language gap between content moderators and content has created disparities in enforcement, leaving non-English speaking communities vulnerable to false statements and misinformation. Your companies’ updated policies contain little or no information on specifically addressing non-English misinformation, especially in languages ​​other than Spanish. For example, Meta’s new election disinformation strategy includes commitments to work with fact-checkers in Spanish and to invest in media literacy resources in Spanish, but it does not extend similar commitments to languages. such as Vietnamese, Chinese or Korean.

We recognize that this is a very difficult problem to solve, but your companies need to invest more resources to prevent the spread of non-English speaking misinformation. All users should be able to use your platforms without being overwhelmed by election misinformation, regardless of the languages ​​they speak. Beyond fact-checking and using authoritative sources, non-English content moderation teams must also have the cultural background and skills to accurately and adequately implement and enforce policies. content moderation. Additionally, content moderation policies and processes themselves must be in tune with and reflect the lived realities and experiences of multilingual and multicultural communities. Finally, as we emphasize throughout this letter, these improvements must become standard operating procedure – not just one-off tweaks made just before an election.

More friction to reduce the spread of content containing election disinformation: We know that some of your companies have taken steps to implement similar frictions and features just before and after the 2020 elections. There is little discussion in the updated policies about taking one of these measures for the mid-terms. There is mention in the updated policies of using labeling to combat misinformation, but details on how this would work are scarce. While misleading claims should be labeled appropriately to provide context, a growing body of research shows that information-only labels are largely ineffective in stopping the spread of misinformation. We have discussed more comprehensive plans with your companies to reduce the spread of election misinformation, including implementing front-end and back-end friction in user interfaces, algorithms, and product design to proactively reduce misinformation. disinformation. This may include edits to downgrade or downgrade this content and limit users’ ability to engage with it. For example, viral kill switches can be used to limit the spread of potential misinformation. We would like to see more assertive measures like these implemented as soon as possible.

Spreading misinformation about voting and elections on your platforms undermines our democracy. If you allow election misinformation to spread largely unchecked, your platforms will become known as the dominant threat to a thriving democratic process. But with proper oversight and protections, your platforms can be useful tools in promoting strong democracy. It’s critical that you take immediate action to curb election misinformation ahead of the midterm elections, and we look forward to working with you to ensure your platforms do just that. Please contact Dave Toomey of The Leadership Conference at [email protected] to discuss or respond to the issues we have raised in this letter and your plans to resolve them.

Sincerely,

Asian Americans Advance Justice – ACCA
Center for American Progress
Common cause
The Leaders’ Conference on Civil and Human Rights
UnidosUnited States
responsible technician
All votes are local
Center for Democracy and Technology
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Black Women’s Roundtable
New America Open Technology Institute
American Sikh Legal Defense and Education Fund

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