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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Tech giants are going all in on civic engagement efforts ahead of November's election to help protect themselves in case they're charged with letting their platforms be used to suppress the vote.

Why it matters: During the pandemic, there's more confusion about the voting process than ever before. Big tech firms, under scrutiny for failing to stem misinformation around voting, want to have concrete efforts they can point to so they don't get blamed for letting an election be manipulated.

Driving the news: Google announced Thursday a number of new voting-related initiatives.

  • New Google Search features will direct people to verified information when they search for "how to vote" or "how to register."
  • Soon, when people search for federal or presidential candidates on YouTube, an information panel with candidate information will surface.
  • Google is also updating its political ads transparency report to include more information about paid ads on its platforms and meeting regularly with government agencies on threats.

Twitter said it plans to, within the next month, start rolling out tools, policies and partnerships to help users register and prepare to vote by mail as well as find local early voting options.

  • For instance, the company said it will likely expand its rules against content that undermines civic integrity to specifically address misinformation about mail-in voting and voter registration.
  • Twitter created a feature back in January that allows users to report voter suppression and misinformation.

Snapchat is rolling out a slew of new tools and features to help prepare young people to vote in the November election. The new "Voter Registration Mini" tool, for example, allows users to register to vote directly in Snapchat.

  • It's also posting a new "Voter Guide" that provides users with information about topics like voting by mail, ballot education and voter registration.

Facebook launched a voter information hub to direct users to credible information about the election. On Thursday it also announced new features, like voting alerts to help state and local election authorities reach their constituents with important updates about voting.

  • It has begun labeling posts from presidential and congressional candidates about voting, regardless of whether they contain misinformation. The labels direct users to government resources with information about voting.
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook's goal is to help register 4 million people to vote.

Be smart: These announcements come on the heels of a major social media ad boycott, mostly aimed at Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, in which civil rights groups argued that voter suppression was one of their big demands. 

Yes, but: Encouraging people digitally to take part in the democratic process won't stop people from abusing platforms to subvert that process in other ways.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Nov 20, 2020 - Technology

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Misinformation flood control

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden will enter office with no fast fixes at hand to stem a tide of online misinformation that has shaped election-year politics and, unchecked, could undermine his presidency.

Where it stands: Election and coronavirus misinformation spreading widely on digital platforms has already done serious damage to the U.S., and it's bound to go into overdrive as the Biden administration starts enacting its agenda.

Nov 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Romney: Trump's efforts to overturn election result are "undemocratic"

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) tweeted Thursday that President Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election result make it "difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president."

Why it matters: It's Romney's sharpest, most focused criticism of Trump yet. While the Utah senator has publicly needled the president over his actions during the last few months — especially regarding Trump's embrace of conspiracy theories like QAnon — he often has couched his criticism by targeting people across the political spectrum.

Nov 19, 2020 - Technology

Facebook says very few people actually see hate speech on its platform

Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook said it took action on 22.1 million pieces of hate speech content to its platform globally last quarter and about 6.5 million pieces of hate speech content on Instagram. On both platforms, it says about 95% of that hate speech was proactively identified and stopped by artificial intelligence.

Details: In total, the company says that there are 10–11 views of hate speech for every 10,000 views of content uploaded to the site globally — or .1%. It calls this metric — how much problematic content it doesn't catch compared to how much is reported and removed — "prevalence."

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