Reject the results and question the electoral system of United States. During the months leading up to the elections, the president Donald Trump He was in charge of revealing what his strategy would be if the counts were lengthened and the balance fell to the side of Joe Biden, as it is happening. That gave scope for large platforms such as Facebook Y Twitter prepare to contain a wave of disinformation digital that has not stopped growing.
During the first hours, social networks they managed to contain the rumors. Yet as the headcount in key states like Wisconsin and Michigan turned blue on Wednesday, Republicans turned on the mud machine to crack that tech dam. “This is a fraud“, said Trump using the presidential podium of the White House. “We are preparing to win this election. Frankly, we have won this election.” With that lie, the president activated a simmering electoral strategy that has permeated his followers and that has used the platforms to amplify the conspiracies about electoral fraud.
Soon after, Trump spread a false message pointing to the vote count in Michigan, his son Eric spread hoaxes about the burning of 80,000 votes – which turned out to be sample, unofficial – and the campaign of the president and his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, they proclaimed themselves winners of Pennsylvania.
Ultra-conservative circles also circulated rumors that poll workers gave markers to Trump voters so that the machines could not read their vote, a theory now known as ‘Sharpiegate’. Despite being contrasted and denied, it took little time for the accusations to go viral.
The proliferation of that toxic content prompted platforms to respond quickly. In addition to highlighting the official vote count in the header and providing links to information, Twitter has partially hidden those messages with warnings of falsehoods and has restricted the ability to share and comment on them. Up to six of the 14 tweets Trump posted on Wednesday were flagged as “misleading.” Twitter deactivated a network of 150 accounts spreading conspiracies against Biden and flagged a message from Ben Wikler, head of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, for declaring victory in the state before the media did.
For its part, Facebook has acted less forcefully, labeling those false messages with a contextualization that, however, does not prevent the spread or impact of those lies. Although at first he refused to tag posts that proclaimed victory in some state in advance, the platform of Mark Zuckerberg changed his course on Wednesday and began to point out misinformation. Both Facebook and Instagram notify their users with notifications that the count has not finished yet.
Once President Trump began making premature claims of victory, we started running notifications on Facebook and Instagram that votes are still being counted and a winner is not projected. We’re also automatically applying labels to both candidates’ posts with this information. pic.twitter.com/tuGGLJkwcy
— Facebook Newsroom (@fbnewsroom) November 4, 2020
Chapter a part deserves Youtube. Its home page featured accurate count information, and the election videos are linked to official results from The Associated Press. However, the platform has been harshly criticized for allowing the broadcast of channels in which Trump was falsely considered the winner and those hoaxes about electoral fraud were spread, some with up to 3.5 million views. One even featured his former advisor and far-right guru, Steve Bannon, (accused of defrauding hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to a campaign to build the wall) asking Americans to resort to arms to “not allow infamy.”
In a statement, the platform itself, owned by Google, has explained that it has not deleted those videos with unproven accusations despite the fact that their “demonstrably false content undermines trust in the democratic process & rdquor ;, only their ads.” Twitter and Facebook tried to get ahead of the threat, YouTube reacted as if there would be no threat to the integrity of the elections, “said technologist Casey Newton.
Its impact is not negligible. Up to 26% of American adults turn to the largest video platform in the world for information, and of these 76% consider it an important source, according to a study by the Pew Research Center published in September.
From the networks to the streets
Since Tuesday, the response from social media has been faster and more forceful than it has ever been before. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube ensure that the work has not been done and that they will continue to monitor the risks that may arise. “The audience is hyperfocused at a time when there is a lot of uncertainty and bad actors can use it opportunistically,” the director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Laboratory told the ‘New York Times’, Graham Brookie.
That will be their main challenge until a presidential winner is certified, but also after the result is clarified, since it is feared that these platforms are instrumentalized for radical groups to organize protests it is included violent actions to try to stop a few counts that could make Biden president.