More than 120 civil rights, voting rights, and public interest groups nationally urged TikTok, Twitter, Meta, YouTube, Alphabet, and other social media giants to stop the spread of ongoing election disinformation ahead of the midterms.
That includes many Georgia organizations, such as Black Voters Matter Fund, Common Cause of Georgia, GALEO & GALEO Impact Fund, Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, Georgia Equality, Georgia Muslim Voters Project and Georgia Stand-UP, as 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 nation’s democracy.
“Online disinformation continues to confuse, intimidate, and harass voters, suppress the right to vote or otherwise disrupt our democracy,” the groups’ letter said. “The upcoming November 8th midterm election will be the first national election day since the January 6th insurrection, making it extremely important that your platforms take appropriate action to combat 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 the various social media outlets during the 2020 election cycle–including increased content moderation, labeling disputed or inaccurate information, and highlighting authoritative information and news sources– had “some material effect,” but were either inconsistent or woefully insufficient.
Their letter added that the social media platforms either stopped enforcing these practices or scaled them back soon after the 2020 elections.
As evidence of these platforms’ ineffectiveness at combating election disinformation, the groups cite recent polls showing that over 40% of Americans still do not believe President Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election.
The letter was sent to CEOs Mark Zuckerberg of Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook); Susan Wojcicki of YouTube; Sundar Pichai of Alphabet; Parag Agrawal of Twitter; Shou Zi Chew of TikTok; Adam Mosseri of Instagram, and Evan Spiegel of Snap.
The public interest groups asked the CEOs to immediately take the following actions to reduce election disinformation:
- Introduce “friction” through algorithms, user interfaces and product design to “demote or downrank this content and limit users’ ability to engage with it.”
- Focus on preventing disinformation targeting non-English speaking communities, which the letter said has continued to spread after the 2020 election. “Platforms must provide adequate resources to enforce non-English content moderation.”
- Enforce civic integrity policies during both election and non-election cycles. Civic integrity teams should enforce policies year-round, the letter said, and policies must address “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 U.S. election.”
- Prioritize enforcement to remove content that spreads “The Big Lie,”–i.e. that President Joe Biden did not actually win the 2020 election. That includes “content that glorifies the January 6th insurrection, particularly from 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 went into effect to combat election disinformation.
- Fact-check electoral content, including political ads and posts from public officials. “Platforms should also apply third-party fact-checkers to political advertisements and remove exemptions that allow public officials to spread disinformation with impunity.”
- Provide real-time access of social media data to external researchers and watchdogs. “Platforms should provide free third-party access to tools such as CrowdTangle and Firehose that contain important data for researchers studying and tracking the spread of disinformation.”
- Provide greater transparency of political ads, enforcement practices and algorithmic models. “Platforms must provide greater transparency in political advertising by creating a publicly available online database of all ads in categories related to elections and social and political issues run on the platform. The database should be machine-readable, include targeting parameters used, and what categories of users received the ad.”