Nov 6, 2020 - Technology

Election misinformation tests Big Tech platforms

Tweets from US President Donald Trump masked with warnings imposed by Twitter stating that they may be incorrect
Tweets from President Trump masked with warnings imposed by Twitter stating that they may be incorrect. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

This week's election count is already giving the large tech platforms a taste of their future content-moderation challenges.

The state of play: Each day is proving harder than the last for internet gatekeepers amid swirling conspiracy theories, misinformation from elected leaders and growing violent speech from pockets of the far right.

In addition to the new measures put in place by Facebook:

  • After former Trump adviser Steve Bannon said that Anthony Fauci and FBI director Christopher Wray should be beheaded, Twitter banned the account tied to Bannon's radio show. Google’s YouTube took down a video of the comments and blocked the account from uploading videos for a week.
  • Twitter continued to aggressively label tweets from the Trump campaign and allies and put a warning on a post from Donald Trump Jr.slowing its spread. However, the campaign took to tweeting statements via screenshots, which seemed to successfully dodge action from Twitter (though those posts aren't spreading as fast).

Between the lines: The pressure isn't limited to social media, as traditional media outlets also struggle to deal with the president's evidence-free charges undermining trust in the election.

  • MSNBC, for example, cut away almost immediately from Trump's White House appearance Thursday, with NPR also quickly pivoting to a fact check.
  • Other networks, including CNN, carried the full address, but then immediately pointed out the falsehoods it contained.

Meanwhile, fresh questions arose about whether video of Trump's speech itself should be removed from social media. USA Today pulled the video off its site, with its editor saying "our job is to spread truth — not unfounded conspiracies."

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