Meta steps up information control ahead of US elections — Analysis
Social media giant Facebook is tightening controls over information about the midterm elections.
Meta, the social media giant in the US is stepping up information-control strategies as it heads towards the midterm elections of 2022. They are tightening the rules regarding voting misinformation and advertisements. These changes were made public in a Tuesday blog post.
The company will ban new political, social and electoral issue ads during the last week before the election, ensuring no “October surprises” – factual or otherwise – will disturb the information ecosystem. It will also be prohibited to modify existing ads and to encourage voters not that they vote, or question the legitimacy of results.
To further ensure the sanctity of the vote, Meta says it is investing in “Proactive threat detection” with the aim of countering “Coordinated intimidation and threats of violence towards election officials and workers.” The company is also holding regular meetings with the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Elections Directors, state and local elections officials, and the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
Meta has deployed fact-checkers across multiple languages to help with the midterms. They also expanded the service to WhatsApp by adding five Spanish partners (Univision, Telemundo) This is part of a $5 million boost in “Fact-checking and Media Literacy Initiatives” ahead of November’s vote.
The platform promised to deploy fewer “Labels that provide reliable information to connect people” during the 2022 season, acknowledging user feedback had tipped them off that such labels were “over-used” in 2020.
Bragging it had banned more than 270 “white supremacist organizations” and deleted over 2.5 million content items tied to “organized hate” in the first quarter of 2022 alone, the platform revealed 97% of the content in question had been removed by its algorithms without anyone reporting it – raising the question of how hateful it was given the absence of an offended party.
However, some question whether Facebook has the ability to handle actual misinformation in elections. Climate justice NGO Global Witness says it submitted 10 fake ads less than two months before Brazil’s presidential election telling users to vote on the wrong day, using methods that are not in use, and questioning the validity of the results before the votes are in – only for Meta to accept every single one. The group has conducted similar tests ahead of elections in Kenya, and reported the site’s filters “Clearly, it is lacking.” there as well.
Meta isn’t the only social media firm to return to 2020’s “Election integrity” policies. Twitter announced last week that it would reactivate its own democracy-defending rules, pledging to label and prevent the sharing of “False information,” promote “Reputable” news outlets, and “pre-bunk” narratives that might call the integrity of election results into question, regardless of their veracity. The platform shifted focus from election-related “Disinformation” to Covid-19-related content after the election but has continued to experiment with redirecting users toward “approved”Information sources
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