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.
Facebook is temporarily demoting posts containing election-related misinformation on its platforms and limiting the distribution of livestreams that may relate to the election, the company confirmed Thursday.
Why it matters: Facebook is turning on emergency measures like those used in countries where democracy is under threat as it looks to contain the spread of false claims and conspiracy theories about ballot counting.
Public and private Facebook groups are becoming vectors of disinformation about ballot counting, as the results of the presidential race remain unclear and states finish tallying votes under individual state laws and timelines.
Driving the news: Facebook took down a public group called "Stop the Steal" that quickly amassed hundreds of thousands of members Thursday. Yet conspiracy theories and false claims continue to circulate widely in other groups, including private ones predating the election that have been repurposed as disinformation repositories.
Although the winner of the 2020 presidential contest is still unknown, one thing is clear: disinformation is becoming an endemic feature of U.S. politics.
Why it matters: Every nation is an "imagined community," political scientist Benedict Anderson said, bonded together by shared understandings, values and historical narratives. Disinformation cleaves those commonalities, making a country more dysfunctional, more divided and altogether weaker.
Today will be hard enough for many of us to get through without also falling for misinformation that may enrage, depress and deceive. Here are a few tips from team Axios and experts designed to relieve at least a little of the Election Day stress.
Why it matters: The intentional spread of false information aims not just to mislead, but also to keep voters from the polls and to undermine public faith in institutions.
Facebook said Monday it would be relying on consensus results from the National Election Pool/Edison via Reuters, the Associated Press, and six independent decision desks at major media outlets to determine when a presidential winner is projected.
Why it matters: Facebook is expanding the pool of sources it will use to enforce its policies around false claims of victory and other post-election misinformation. The company had already said it would add a label to any premature victory announcements, directing people to the official results from Reuters and the National Election Pool.
A Senate hearing Wednesday with Big Tech CEOs became the backdrop for Democrats and Republicans to swap accusations of inappropriate electioneering.
Why it matters: Once staid tech policy debates are quickly becoming a major focal point of American culture and political wars, as both parties fret about the impact of massive social networks being the new public square.
As online platforms and intelligence officials get more sophisticated about detecting and stamping out election meddling campaigns, bad actors are increasingly seeing the appeal of instead exaggerating their own interference capabilities to shake Americans' confidence in democracy.
Why it matters: It doesn't take a sophisticated operation to sow seeds of doubt in an already fractious and factionalized U.S. Russia proved that in 2016, and fresh schemes aimed at the 2020 election may already be proving it anew.
Facebook warned Tuesday that bad actors are increasingly taking to social media to create the false perception that they’ve pulled off major hacks of electoral systems or have otherwise seriously disrupted elections.
Why it matters: "Perception hacking," as Facebook calls it, can have dire consequences on people's faith in democracy, sowing distrust, division and confusion among the voters it targets.
The Artist Rights Alliance, a non-profit advocating for music creators, has sent a letter to the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the state Attorneys General of Vermont and California, calling for an investigation into Facebook for refusing to take action on a fraudulent concert on its platform.
Details: The letter, obtained by Axios, asks policymakers to investigate Facebook for "participating in a scheme to defraud cellist Zoe Keating, an unknown number of her fans, and undoubtedly thousands of other working artists."