Misinformation

The big picture

2020 rules of the road for the Age of Misinformation

Political strategists to find ways to navigate the new rules of Big Tech.

Jan 14, 2020
Tech platforms struggle to police deepfakes

Facebook, TikTok and Reddit all updated their policies on misinformation this week.

Jan 10, 2020
How online ad targeting weaponizes political misinformation

Internet companies are weighing limiting their ad targeting as a way to curb the misinformation maze.

Nov 17, 2019
Platforms give pols a free pass to lie

One set of rules for politicians or "world leaders," another for the rest of us.

Oct 20, 2019
Human actors are changing the spread of disinformation

It's switching from employees to volunteers.

Oct 17, 2019
The misinformation age

It's undermining trust in politics and government, but also business, technology, science and health care.

Sep 12, 2019

All Misinformation stories

Twitter cracks down on coronavirus misinformation from Giuliani, Bolsonaro

Photo: Saul Martinez/Getty Images

It's notable that Twitter, like other social networks, has announced stricter rules on virus-related misinformation than other types of false posts. Even more notable, though, is that Twitter has actually enforced its rules against prominent accounts in recent days.

Why it matters: Twitter has been criticized for being lax to enforce its rules, particularly against well-known politicians and celebrities.

New reports find Russian meddling coming via Africa ahead of 2020

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios


A new Russian disinformation campaign targeting Americans on social media operated through satellite outfits in Ghana and Nigeria, according to new reports from CNN and Graphika, in collaboration with Facebook and professors at Clemson University.

Why it matters: Russian efforts to meddle in this year's U.S. elections are evolving in an attempt to avoid detection. In 2016, most state-backed misinformation campaigns went through St. Petersburg. Now, the Kremlin is changing course.

InfoWars host Alex Jones charged with DWI

Photo: Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images

InfoWars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was arrested early Tuesday and charged with driving while intoxicated in Travis County, Texas, the Austin-American Statesman reports.

Details: The 46-year-old radio host, who has been banned from most major Big Tech platforms, was released on bail almost four hours after his arrest. In December, a judge ordered him to pay $100,000 in court costs and legal fees in a case brought by a Sandy Hook family after his unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the mass shooting.

Why labeling misinformation on social media can be so tricky

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Tech companies like Twitter and Facebook have struggled with ways label misinformation without appearing biased or without baiting users to game the system.

Why it matters: It may seem obvious that tech companies should let users know when something is false, but sometimes, calling out false content can have unintended consequences.

Facebook takes down Trump campaign's "census" ads

Photo: Johannes Simon/Getty Images; Mark Wilson/Getty Images

After initially indicating it would not take action against campaign ads from President Trump that encouraged people to "take the Official 2020 Congressional District Census today," Facebook said Thursday it would take the messages down.

Why it matters: Facebook has generally subjected political advertising to few rules, but had said it would take a tough stand against any posts designed to mislead people about the census.

House Democrat takes aim at tech liability shield over false ads

Rep. David Cicilline. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

The chair of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee is preparing a bill that would remove liability protections from tech platforms that don't take down false political ads, Bloomberg Law reported Monday.

The big picture: Facebook's policy of not fact-checking political ads has angered Democrats, and tinkering with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which immunizes internet platforms from lawsuits over user-posted material, has become an increasingly popular threat for lawmakers looking to bring Big Tech to heel.

Tech experts say advances in digital technology will hurt democracy

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Advances in digital technology are likely to erode trust and harm democracy around the world between now and 2030, according to a plurality of tech experts surveyed for a new Pew Research report.

Why it matters: Online misinformation is already causing a mix of actual harm and widespread fears, and advances like deepfakes are likely to intensify the challenges citizens face.

What we're reading: Trump's disinfo blitzkrieg

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump campaign, borrowing tactics from dictators and demagogues abroad, is poised to spend $1 billion on "what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history" to sway the 2020 election, McKay Coppins writes in the Atlantic.

Why it matters: Coppins offers the prospect of an election "shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting."

Go deeperArrowUpdated Feb 7, 2020 - Technology

Twitter sets high bar for taking down deepfakes

Photo illustration: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Twitter on Tuesday announced a new policy aimed at discouraging the spread of deepfakes and other manipulated media, but the service will only ban content that threatens people's safety, rights or privacy.

Why it matters: Tech platforms are under pressure to stanch the flow of political misinformation, including faked videos and imagery. Twitter's approach, which covers a wide range of material but sets narrow criteria for deletion, is unlikely to satisfy critics or politicians like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi — who have both slammed platforms for allowing manipulated videos of them to spread.

YouTube adjusts line on political misinformation

Photo: Carsten Rehder/picture alliance via Getty Images

YouTube will bar videos that lie about the mechanics of an election, the company announced in a blog post Monday, but indicated it remains reluctant to crack down more broadly on deceptive political speech, as some critics have demanded.

Why it matters: YouTube's content policies — which are separate from the advertising policies Google outlined in the fall — do not ban political falsehoods at a time when tech platforms are under fire to limit misinformation about candidates and elections.

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