Electoral disinformation “limited, not stopped”, on social networks

Dozens of posts on Twitter and Facebook have challenged Democratic successes in the U.S. midterm election without evidence, social media experts have said, but the misinformation hasn’t reached the stormy levels that followed the victory of President Joe Biden in 2020.

Researchers who study disinformation are closely monitoring online discussions following Tuesday’s vote, which will decide Congressional oversight.

False accounts of fraud in the 2020 presidential race, promoted by then-President Donald Trump on Twitter, fueled a deadly Capitol siege in January 2021.

Trump was subsequently banned from the social media service.

This time, much smaller users on Meta Platform’s Twitter and Facebook cast doubt on the uncertain results in Arizona, citing problems with voting machines and slow counting.

Overall, Republicans made modest gains nationally, but Democrats performed better than expected, and congressional scrutiny rested on a few races that remained too close to announce Wednesday night (local time). ).

Some articles noted that Republicans won big in Florida after the state enacted new voting restrictions and claimed that the lack of such laws in other states led to fraud.

“We see people invoking the idea that Democratic success is the result of widespread fraud, but they don’t have much to cling to,” the Southern Poverty Law Center intelligence project said. , which monitors social media.

So far, the conspiracy theories haven’t sparked major protests or gone as viral as the last time.

“There’s a bunch of frozen balls in the air and we’re just wondering when they’re going to drop or if they’re gone for good,” said Mike Caulfield, a University of Washington researcher who is part of the election. . Integrity Partnership Consortium.

The partnership said some Republican commentators may refrain from airing fraud allegations in states such as Arizona because the party is expected to emerge partially victorious in those locations and such allegations could undermine their positive results.

Efforts by election officials and online disinformation experts to push back against misleading narratives on social media appear to have worked better than in 2020, also helping to curb the spread of false claims, researchers from the partnership said.

The action taken by social media services has been uneven.

Facebook and Twitter both have systems for adding context from fact-checking organizations to posts describing debunked election conspiracies. But none of that context emerged in several posts reviewed by Reuters that implied fraud.

Facebook also aims to restrict the spread of conspiratorial content by recommending it less, and problematic posts found by researchers only had a few hundred likes. But the company declined to comment on how well the feature worked in this election, citing the ongoing vote count.

Common Cause, which monitors social media for voter suppression efforts, said Tuesday that Twitter took no action on posts the organization flagged as inappropriate.

Twitter, now owned by billionaire Elon Musk, laid off about half of its staff last week, including many employees tasked with maintaining and elevating credible information on the service.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. It suspended a user who posted a video on Tuesday claiming a masked man was “cheating in front of the cameras” at a Philadelphia polling station.

Philadelphia City Commissioner Seth Bluestein tweeted that the video was fake.

“I personally visited the East Passyunk Community Center polling station today,” Bluestein wrote.

“The inside photo is not of a Philadelphia polling place, as you can see in these photos I just took tonight. This is another example of dangerous misinformation.

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