Social media on high alert as US votes tallied
Twitter labelled a Donald Trump post as potentially misleading while social media platforms kept on high alert against election misinformation early on Wednesday, with the outcome of the US presidential vote yet to be called.
Aiming to avoid problems that occurred in the 2016 campaign, Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube have all implemented policies aimed at heading off the spread of false information designed to sway the outcome of this year's poll.
Twitter covered the Trump tweet with a notice that it contained information that was potentially misleading, requiring people to click through to see an unfounded claim of an effort to "steal" the election and deprive the president of an election victory.
Trump posted the same message on his Facebook page, where it was tagged with a disclaimer that ballot counting remained in progress, and a link to reliable information about the election.
"We applied labels to two posts from President Donald J. Trump this evening in accordance with the policies we shared ahead of Election Day," Facebook said.
Facebook earlier said it had a command centre watching the platform and ready to react to misinformation during the vote.
"Our Election Operations Centre will continue monitoring a range of issues in real time," said a Facebook statement posted on Twitter.
Nonprofit activism group Avaaz said its "war room" was also keeping tabs on Facebook and reported "last-ditch" Spanish-language misinformation, including posts about the prospects of a post-election coup or civil war.
"Disinformation is dividing and disenfranchising the American people," said Avaaz program director Fadi Quran.
The Election Integrity Partnership research coalition said a Google search for swing states turned up a YouTube video channel that was displaying a fake live feed of election results.
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"Thousands of people may have been duped into streaming a fake YouTube video purporting to show election night results," the researchers said in a post.
YouTube removed the video.
Some groups at Facebook were being used to share stories of going to polling places without face masks to "scare liberals away," according to a post by Kayla Gogarty of nonprofit watchdog group Media Matters.
And a #stopthesteal hashtag was being used on social media posts tailored to cast doubt on the voting process.
Facebook stressed that it would place warning labels on any posts which sought to claim victory prematurely.
Loopholes and glitches
Along with other social platforms, the company has promised to stem misinformation around the election, including premature claims of victory, seeking to avoid a repeat of 2016 manipulation efforts.
Over past days, Facebook and Twitter added disclaimers to Trump posts calling into question the integrity of mail-in ballots.
The Trump post in question on Twitter said a slow vote count in battleground state Pennsylvania could lead to "rampant and unchecked cheating."
"It will also induce violence in the streets. Something must be done!" he tweeted.
Twitter last month updated its "civic integrity policy" aiming to prevent efforts to manipulate or interfere in elections. That calls for actions against false claims for victory or any incitement to violence.
YouTube has also sought to limit the sharing of videos with election misinformation. Last month it began adding information panels to videos about voting by mail.
Mail-in voting was added to a short list of topics that YouTube considers prone to posts containing falsehoods, such as Covid-19 and landing on the Moon, according to the Google-owned video sharing platform.
The panel appears under such videos regardless of who is speaking or who uploads them, according to YouTube.
Some activists noted that efforts by social platforms to curb the spread of false information was being hurt by loopholes and glitches.
Avaaz said it has found multiple examples of unverified election claims on Facebook in recent days.
Some comments said the "left" was planning a "coup" if Trump won the vote, while others argued without any factual basis that Trump would need to win Pennsylvania by four to five points "to overcome voter fraud," according to Avaaz.
Facebook acknowledged this week that some political ads banned for containing misleading information were resurfacing, with political groups copying the same content for new messages to slip through filters.
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