Civil rights

Civil rights and public interest groups urge social media giants to stop spreading disinformation ahead of midterm elections

More than 120 civil rights, voting rights and public interest groups have called nationwide on TikTok, Twitter, Meta, YouTube, Alphabet and other social media giants to stop the spread of misinformation ongoing election before the mid-terms.

This includes many Georgian organizations, such as Black Voters Fund, Georgia Common Cause, GALEO & GALEO Impact Fund, Georgian Coalition for People’s Agenda, Georgia Equality, Georgia Muslim Voters Project and Georgia Stand-UPas well as others with large local offices, such as Southern Poverty Law Center and Asian-Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta.

The groups signed a May 12 letter warning seven social media CEOs that without swift and decisive action, election disinformation on their platforms would continue to undermine the country’s democracy.

“Online misinformation continues to confuse, intimidate and harass voters, suppress the right to vote, or disrupt our democracy,” the groups’ letter said. “The upcoming midterm elections on November 8 will be the first day of national elections since the January 6 insurgency, so it is critically important that your platforms take appropriate action to counter disinformation.”

The groups, which include the Center for American Progress, Free Press, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said the actions taken by various social media outlets during the election cycle of 2020, including increased content moderation, labeling disputed or inaccurate information, and highlighting authoritative information and sources of information – had “some material effect”, but were either inconsistent, is woefully insufficient.

Their letter added that social media platforms had either stopped enforcing these practices or reduced them soon after the 2020 election.

As evidence of the ineffectiveness of these platforms in combating election misinformation, the groups cite recent polls showing that more than 40% of Americans still don’t believe President Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election.

The letter was sent to CEOs Mark Zuckerberg of Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook); YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki; Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai; Parag Agrawal of Twitter; Shou Zi Chew of TikTok; Instagram’s Adam Mosseri and Snap’s Evan Spiegel.

Public interest groups have called on CEOs to immediately take the following steps to reduce election misinformation:

  • Introduce “friction” through algorithms, user interfaces, and product design to “demote or downgrade this content and limit users’ ability to engage with it.”
  • Focus on preventing misinformation targeting non-English speaking communities, which the letter says continued to spread after the 2020 election. “Platforms must provide adequate resources to enforce moderation of non-English content .”
  • Enforce civic integrity policies during election and non-election cycles. Civic integrity teams should enforce policies throughout the year, the letter says, and policies should respond to “calls for political violence, content that could inspire violence, such as doxing and attacks on election workers, and content that attempts to delegitimize any past and future United States election.”
  • Prioritize law enforcement to remove content that propagates “The Big Lie” i.e. President Joe Biden didn’t actually win the 2020 election. This includes “content which glorifies the January 6 insurrection, especially by political candidates and in fundraising advertisements” because it undermines “faith in the integrity of our elections”.
  • Apply civic integrity policies to live content posted before new policies take effect to combat election misinformation.
  • Check election content, including political ads and messages from public officials. “Platforms should also apply third-party fact-checkers to political ads and remove exemptions that allow public officials to spread misinformation with impunity.”
  • Provide real-time access to social media data to external researchers and watchdogs. “Platforms should provide free third-party access to tools such as CrowdTangle and Firehose which contain data important to researchers studying and tracking the spread of misinformation.”
  • Provide greater transparency of political advertisements, enforcement practices and algorithmic models. “Platforms should provide greater transparency in political advertising by creating a publicly accessible online database of all advertisements in categories related to elections and social and political issues served on the platform. The database must be machine-readable, include the targeting parameters used and the categories of users who received the ad. »