When President Donald Trump’s Facebook account on Monday posted an unsubstantiated claim that the ballots’ could not be counted accurately ‘, the social media giant responded by placing a label on the message that simply said:’ Visit the Voting Information Center for election sources and official updates. ”
Some of Facebook’s critics did not like it.
“The label is worse than nothing,” said Kate Starbird, an associate professor of human-centered design and engineering at the University of Washington. tweet.
Facebook later changed the label to make it more aggressive, describing a ‘long history of reliability’ for personal votes as well as by mail. A parallel scene unfolded on Twitter, where an identical demand from the president led to a short label: ‘Learn how to vote by mail is safe and secure. ‘
But Facebook and Twitter still left the posts.
Facebook and Twitter announced months ago that they would handle so many posts from Trump about ballot papers: leave the posts behind, but add misleading information, add a fact-checking label. And while the platforms have new and aggressive policies in 2020 on capturing misleading information, it has rarely removed Trump’s content.
The president has since taken full advantage and made the labels look scarce compared to them.
“This is not a great solution to the president’s misinformation about elections,” said Brendan Nyhan, a government professor at Dartmouth College.
Experts studying misinformation have said that the labels of fact checks by Facebook and Twitter probably still have some value, especially if they are made more prominent than now. Democrats are also increasing the pressure.
But the labels also show how half-measures that tech companies use to try to combat harmful misinformation are unlikely to solve the problem.
The pattern has been repeated for months and now it looks like it is destined to continue in November, leaving all parties somewhat dissatisfied with the outcome.
For Trump and his supporters, the labels in turn are a reflection, a speed bump or a badge of honor of social media companies that want to deny him re-election by applying their rules. For Trump’s opponents and people who investigate false information online, the labels are a tool that is not sufficient for the weighty work to ensure the integrity of the election.
Sometimes the labels are only added after a post has received a lot of views, and it is unclear whether the labels affect the number of people who see the false information.
A Twitter spokesperson did not want to answer questions about whether the company believes the labels work well, and only said that the labels provide context in line with his “civil integrity policy. ”
Facebook also declined to say whether the labels work well, but said more than 39 million people visited a Facebook website to get voting information. He also said that he applies his rules impartially.
“We have faced criticism from Republicans for being biased against Conservatives and Democrats for not taking more steps to restrict exactly the same content,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in an email.
Ballot papers are very popular in Republican and Democratic areas, and ballot fraud is extremely rare in part because of precautions that government and local officials cross to signatures and home addresses. Most states now offer the tracking of ballots.
However, it can take longer to vote by mail. In Pennsylvania, it took 28 days to count all the votes in the June 2 primary.
Twitter first hit a fact-checking label on a Trump tweet in May in which the president claimed the ballots would be mostly fraudulent. (Three months later, Trump would request a vote in the Florida primary.)
Facebook announced a similar policy in July to label posts of elected officials and candidates, and a few days later, it added a label to a Trump post.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an update this month that the labels are meant to be informative if someone tries to desegitimate the voting methods – a purpose other than deterrence, for example.
“This label provides basic authoritative information on the integrity of the electoral and voting methods,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.
Suggestions abound for how Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites like YouTube can add and improve their fact-checking labels. They can use text of different colors or increase the size of the labels relative to the posts themselves.
For example, a few social media posts from the Trump campaign last week had labels on Facebook and Twitter it was much smaller than a preview of a video of Donald Trump Jr.
“You really have to pay attention to seeing and processing them,” said David Rand, associate professor of management science and brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“As long as you’re going to do it, you have to do it in a more powerful way,” he said.
Rand said most of the evidence suggests that online alerts and corrections are effective in informing people and that they are less likely to share false information.
“It probably won’t make Trump any less likely to post it, or Don Jr., but it may make ordinary people less likely to share it, which is perhaps more important because it robs the content of its virality,” he said. .
Nyhan of Dartmouth said that Facebook’s labels for fact checks have become clearer and more aggressive since they were introduced years ago, when they only told users that a claim was ‘disputed’.
But, he said, opponents of the president will want to focus on battles other than social media labeling if they want to defeat him, because Trump will find other ways to get his message across and because tech companies already have a lot of power over speech. .
“It is a democratic emergency that the president has refused to endorse a peaceful transition of power,” Nyhan said. “I do not think we should look at giant corporations to address this problem as a first-order solution.”