Facebook Is a ‘Super Spreader’ of Election Misinformation

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies by way of video convention throughout an Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee listening to on “Online platforms and market power. Examining the dominance of Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple” on Capitol Hill on July 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg spoke to staff on Thursday concerning the ruling for the Breonna Taylor case.
Getty/Graeme Jennings – Pool

Less than every week forward of the U.S. presidential election, misinformation referring to voting and election safety is flourishing on Facebook, regardless of the platform’s pledge to curb such content material, a NewsGuard investigation has discovered.

NewsGuard has recognized 40 Facebook pages which might be “super-spreaders” of election-related misinformation, that means that they’ve shared false content material about voting or the electoral course of to their audiences of not less than 100,000 followers. Only three of the 53 posts we recognized on these pages—which collectively attain roughly 22.9 million followers—have been flagged by Facebook as false. Four of the pages have managers primarily based exterior the U.S.—in Mexico,Vietnam, Australia, and Israel—regardless of the pages’ give attention to American politics.

The myths recognized by NewsGuard embody false claims of mail-in ballots getting thrown away, narratives that lifeless individuals’s forged ballots depend as votes, and false claims about ballot watchers. The claims about ballot watchers minimize each methods, with gamers on each the appropriate and the left pushing their very own, self-serving myths, NewsGuard discovered.

NewsGuard’s evaluation additionally discovered that election-related myths usually seize on routine and solvable voting errors as examples of malpractice or deception, sowing mistrust within the electoral course of. Others appear primarily based on both an unintentional or willful misunderstanding of guidelines and practices.

The false tales NewsGuard recognized typically included a number of election myths, whereas different articles didn’t match neatly with one explicit election delusion. Nevertheless, all of the articles NewsGuard recognized superior inaccurate details about the voting course of.

For instance, one fashionable Facebook submit lately claimed that Pennsylvania had rejected 372,000 ballots, when in truth, Pennsylvania officers had really rejected 372,000 poll functions. The rejection of absentee poll functions isn’t unusual, neither is it essentially proof of something untoward. Moreover, a registered voter whose utility to vote by mail was rejected can nonetheless vote in particular person. This falsehood appeared in an article revealed on 100PercentFedUp.com, a NewsGuard Red-rated (or usually unreliable) website. Patty McMurray, the co-owner of the location and the creator of the article, informed NewsGuard that her website had corrected the article to mirror the excellence between ballots and poll functions. However, the false, uncorrected submit stays accessible on Facebook and seems on not less than 5 massive Facebook pages. This declare was one among dozens that Facebook didn’t flag as false.

When a Utah county by accident despatched out 13,000 absentee ballots and not using a signature line, the NewsGuard Red-rated website LawEnforcementToday.com known as this a “cheat-by-mail scheme.” The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Sanpete County Clerk rapidly realized of the error, which was a printing error, and instantly put info on-line explaining to voters easy methods to accurately submit their poll. There was no proof that the error was a part of a voter fraud scheme. But on October 15, the submit was shared to a few related Facebook pages, with a complete attain of 1.1 million followers. None of the posts have been marked as false by Facebook’s fact-checkers.

Conspiratorial tales abounded, with articles warning of violence or different disastrous and illegal election outcomes with no proof to assist their claims. Greg Palast, a liberal investigative journalist, predicted that 6 million individuals will vote by mail in Florida, however claimed their votes will possible not be counted. “The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature will say, we can’t count them in time, so we’re not going to certify the election,” Palast wrote, suggesting this transfer could be a part of a ploy to ship the choice to the U.S. House, which underneath the twelfth Amendment decides the president if no majority is reached within the electoral faculty.

There is not any proof to recommend that the Florida legislature will refuse to certify the state’s outcomes. This article, shared on Facebook to Palast’s 109,000 followers, was not flagged as false by Facebook. The three Facebook posts that have been flagged by fact-checkers didn’t embody such warnings till after the parable had been revealed and shared, because of the platform’s follow of not offering advance warnings to customers about pages which were recognized to publish misinformation or hoaxes up to now. Had such warnings existed, Facebook customers would have recognized prematurely that they is perhaps uncovered to misinformation when studying these pages’ posts.

Despite Facebook’s introduced efforts to cease the unfold of such a misinformation, these pages proceed to be allowed to publish blatant misinformation about voting and the electoral course of — seemingly in violation of the platform’s content material insurance policies. New false tales emerge each day, with inaccurate and misleading interpretations of occasions which might be completely regular. The result’s that Facebook has uncovered tens of hundreds of thousands of Americans to falsehoods about America’s electoral course of.

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