Fake news during US elections: these measures are taking social media

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Social media such as Twitter and Facebook are taking measures during the US elections to prevent manipulation with fake news and disinformation. We list the tightened rules.

No political advertising on Facebook

With the new policy, the tech companies hope to prevent a repeat of 2016. Then, shortly after the election, it became apparent that Russian troll factories were trying to influence the election process with purchased advertisements and fake news.

Political advertising on Facebook is strictly prohibited from October 27. That ban will apply for a week, until after the elections on November 3. This should prevent deception and manipulation via the advertising platform.

Messages that discourage users from voting will be removed by Facebook immediately. These messages are probably partly detected by the algorithm, or Facebook finds it thanks to users who report them.

The company has also recently tightened its overall policy, which should have an indirect impact on the election period. Conspiracy theories that can lead to violence, for example, are no longer allowed on the website. These rules remain active after the elections.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last summer that he would not just want to contest President Donald Trump’s messages for fear that this would lead to bias from the company. Still, the tech giant recently took steps to erase a fake news report shared by Trump.

It is no longer possible to retweet on Twitter in the run-up to the elections. The button is still on the social network, but the company wants users to add comments to their retweets now. This must prevent, for example, fake news from being shared without context.

In recent months, Twitter has also taken more rigor against fake news. These messages are checked by fact checkers of the company, after which they are provided with a mark. Users are clearly shown with the tweets that the information is misleading or incorrect. That also happened with tweets from Trump.

Tweets containing information from hacks are also given a warning flag. This happened with controversial reports about a possibly hacked laptop of Joe Bidens son. These reports are now being questioned.

The actual impact of all these measures will not become apparent until November 3 at the earliest, after the US elections are over. The biggest attempts to influence the elections are likely to be just before the vote.

“We do our best to act responsibly and prevent potential harm,” Twitter policy boss Vijaya Gadde wrote after the company decided not to erase messages about political hacks. “But we are still learning how exactly to do that.”

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