Facebook and other big online platforms insist they're removing more and more misinformation. But they can't say whether they're actually stemming the tide of lies, and neither can we, because the deluge turns out to be impossible to define or measure.
Why it matters: The tech companies mostly won't share data that would let researchers better track the scale, spread and impact of misinformation. So the riddle remains unsolved, and the platforms can't be held accountable.
Americans saw more political ads on Facebook in the week before the 2020 election than they did the prior week despite the company's blackout on new political ads during that period, according to Global Witness, a human rights group that espouses tech regulation.
Why it matters: The presidential election was a key stress test for Facebook and other leading online platforms looking to prove that they can curb misinformation. Critics contend measures like the new-ad blackout barely made a dent.
YouTube has barred One America News Network from posting new videos for a week and stripped it of its ability to make money off existing content after the Trump-friendly channel uploaded a video promoting a phony cure for COVID-19, YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi tells Axios.
Why it matters: YouTube has been criticized for allowing OANN to spread misinformation using its platform, particularly around coronavirus and the election. This marks the Google-owned service's first crackdown against OANN.
Item No. 1 on President-elect Joe Biden's day-one tech agenda, controlling the flood of misinformation online, offers no fast fixes — but other tech issues facing the new administration hold out opportunities for quick action and concrete progress.
What to watch: Closing the digital divide will be a high priority, as the pandemic has exposed how many Americans still lack reliable in-home internet connections and the devices needed to work and learn remotely.
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.
President Trump, in announcing the latest in a line of post-election firings, embraced unsubstantiated claims of election hacking over one of his own top cybersecurity officials.
Why it matters: This is only the latest example of an ongoing attempt to purge officials deemed insufficiently loyal to the president. But the potential decapitation of cyber leadership at the Department of Homeland Security could also create expertise gaps during the presidential transition period, making the country less secure.
Democrats and Republicans both want to rein in perceived abuses by Silicon Valley, but a Tuesday Senate hearing to grill Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey showed the two parties operating in mirror universes.
Why it matters: The distance between the parties' diagnoses of the tech industry's trespasses makes it harder than ever to imagine how they might find common ground to pass the meaningful new tech legislation they both say they want.
At a Senate hearing Tuesday morning, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter's Jack Dorsey will stress their companies' work to limit online misinformation and will endorse updating tech's prized liability shield as long as Congress doesn't blow it up.
Why it matters: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects online platforms from lawsuits over moderation calls and user-posted content, and many policymakers view amending or even eliminating the law as their best lever to change how companies govern online speech.
As the dust settles on the 2020 presidential election, it's becoming clear that the process proved sturdy, with no known attacks on voting infrastructure and no 2016-style vast foreign meddling campaigns to disrupt American democracy.
Yes, but: The ongoing disinformation campaign from President Trump and his allies, as they refuse to accept his loss, illustrates that the country does not need outside intrusions to undermine the integrity of our elections.
The Trump administration's fight to question the election's outcome is providing a massive field test of the effectiveness of online echo chambers and filter bubbles.
The state of play: So far, the evidence from the Trump universe shows partisan delusion winning out over objective reality.