Facebook, Twitter will have their hands full with misinformation during election week

Facebook, Twitter will have their hands full with misinformation during election week

Twitter and Facebook went through a major test of how they’ll handle potential misinformation on a grand scale when they took action Wednesday against a New York Post article about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son. Though it’s still too early to judge the social networks’ responses, their moves set the stage for what’s to come on Election Day and during the chaos that’s expected to follow.

Millions of Americans are expected to vote by mail this election because of the coronavirus pandemic, which means it’ll take longer than usual to count all the votes coming in. The delay in getting the results presents a ripe opportunity for misinformation on social networks, and it’ll be a critical test of how Facebook and Twitter react. Their decisions are bound to raise further questions about their role in controlling the information on their platforms.


They’ve already seen backlash. Some lawmakers are criticizing Facebook and Twitter for their actions, comparing the moves to censorship. The social networks limited the spread of the New York Post article, which alleged that leaked emails show Biden’s son introducing a Ukrainian energy executive to the former vice president. Multiple disinformation experts have called out the article as highly suspicious and potentially mirroring a hack-and-leak operation similar to what Russian actors did to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.

Facebook and Twitter have taken stronger stances against political misinformation, but the steps they took Wednesday grabbed national attention, and Trump supporters and Republican lawmakers are arguing that the companies are interfering with the election.

It’s a stark contrast to three years ago, when Democratic lawmakers criticized Facebook and Twitter for not doing enough against Russian disinformation campaigns.

Whether you think the social networks are stopping misinformation or interfering with politics, you can expect things to get much more chaotic on Election Day, or, as many election officials are starting to call it, Election Week.

Post-Election Day

Misinformation following Election Day is a top concern among election security officials. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI have been putting out regular warnings against online political hoaxes that could come in several ways, including websites created to declare fake results, or networks of fake accounts on social media arguing that the official results aren’t legitimate.

“The increased use of mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 protocols could leave officials with incomplete results on election night,” the FBI and CISA said on Sept. 23. “Foreign actors and cybercriminals could exploit the time required to certify and announce elections’ results by disseminating disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud, and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy.”

For months, the Trump campaign has laid the groundwork for disinformation on the election’s results, making false claims about mail-in voting fraud and declining to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if Trump loses.

A network of supporters have committed to amplifying, on social media, Trump’s claims of a rigged election, according to NBC News.

Because of the delay in counting mail-in votes, the results on Election Day won’t reflect what the final ballot count is. Though some states allow for ballot counting to begin the moment ballots are received, others don’t start counting until polls close…Read more>>