The US presidential campaign is drawing to a close as the country prepares to flock to the polls to add to the millions of postal votes already cast.
Social media companies, wary of a repeat of the reputational damage they incurred after failing to prepare for a barrage of fake news four years ago, have been taking sweeping steps to prevent the same thing happening again.
Here is a round up of some of the steps taken by the following social media networks…
Twitter says after election day candidates won’t be permitted to claim they’ve won the election before a declared result. They also add that candidates can’t tweet or retweet content that encourages interference with the election process.
What will it do if that happens? Well, Twitter says it will direct people to resources with accurate, up-to-date information about the election status.
That sounds like Twitter won’t take down tweets, or even necessarily suppress them; but the tweets will at least be labelled.
Crucially, Twitter gives itself room to manoeuvre if things really kick off, as they vowed to not rule out going further.
Last month, it was reported that ‘break-glass options will be available’ in extreme scenarios. What are those options? Well, Facebook won’t say – but some of these plans include altering news feed algorithms to suppress viral posts that propagate violence or fake news.
Facebook have claimed that they can also deactivate certain hashtags related to misinformation around the election result and they will lower the bar for what they remove.
These techniques are on top of what Facebook is already doing, for example, labelling misinformation on voting. They have also teamed up with Reuters to supply accurate election results on the night and in the days after the election.
Reddit appears to go much further than Facebook or Twitter. It says information that seeks to mislead or misrepresent the election results is not allowed and would be removed from the site.
Reddit also has an entire page committed to what happens after the election. The site will host a series of ‘Ask Me Anything’ events from the day after the election, where voting experts will be on hand to answer questions about the vote and what people can expect in the coming days.
Google and YouTube
Google is reportedly working with the Associated Press (AP)— to provide authoritative election results.
So in the days after the election if you searched for ‘Who won the election?’ – Google search would direct you to AP’s updated results. Google has also said it will pause ads referring to the 2020 election, the candidates or its outcome after election day.
It says it’s done this to limit the potential for ads to increase confusion post-election.
YouTube says it will not allow ‘misleading claims about voting or content that encourages interference in the democratic process’. It will remove content falsely claiming that mail-in ballots have been manipulated to change the results of an election.
That too seems to go a lot further than Twitter and Facebook, as they also say they will enforce pre-existing rules on content that promotes violence.
Snapchat and TikTok
Snapchat is slightly different to other social media companies here, as it doesn’t have a newsfeed as such, so the nature of the platform makes it harder for misinformation to go viral.
Even so, Snapchat says it is reminding its ‘stars’ whose content appears on its ‘Discover’ section not to amplify false information about the election, even unintentionally.
The company has also said it has an internal task-force to ‘vigorously protect our platform from being misused in any way’.
TikTok says it is working with independent fact checkers during the election period and will remove misinformation related to the 2020 election – including the vote itself.
It is also adding an election misinformation option to in-app reporting so that users can flag content.
TikTok said: “In these momentous times, we’re intent on supporting our community as we work to maintain the integrity of our platform.”
In short, all these social media companies are treating the election, and its aftermath, very seriously. We will have to stay tuned over the coming days to see whether these measures have been enough.