In an attempt to limit the widespread influence of voting-related fake news, one social media network introduced a new policy in hopes of combatting misinformation this upcoming election.
On Monday, October 15, 2018, Facebook, the largest social network platform in the world with 1.5 billion users logging on daily, announced it will ban all false reports on requirements for voting, long wait times for voters, and violence at polling places for the rest of October and up to the Midterm Elections on November 6, 2018.
Facebook has traditionally had a hand-offs approach to censorship by banning all misinformation likely to avoid censorship charges.
However, the social network has been criticized for the way it negligently handled posts containing misinformation and fake news reports which were designed to suppress voting during the 2016 presidential election.
One of the most common posts made on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election to reduce voter turnout was targeted post at specific users telling them it was now possible to vote via text message.
Many polling experts have agreed posts like this led to lower voter turnout in 2016 presidential election, which was won by Donald Trump after getting +475 odds from Bovada on becoming the next President of the United States right before the first vote was counted on election night.
Even though Facebook will target and ban posts regarding voting misinformation this election cycle, Facebook News Feed Product Manager Tessa Lyons said the company will not prohibit posts from users containing false information regarding candidates, ballot measures, or any other election-related issues.
“We don’t believe we should remove things from Facebook that are shared by authentic people if they don’t violate those community standards, even if they are false,” said Lyons.
Under the newly-implemented company policy, posts containing links to news reports containing inflated numbers or are deemed misleading with the intent of discouraging voter turnout will be given to the Facebook fact-checkers to determine whether the post is false. If the post is deemed false, it will then be severely limited to a small group of the original poster’s most connected friends and banned from the vast majority of feeds from other friends in an effort to limit the spread of intentional voter misinformation leading up to the election this November.
Many critics of the policy believe Facebook is not going far enough to curb false information on its social networking platform and is opening the door for hackers and campaigns organized in Russia or other foreign countries who will attempt to interfere with the 2018 Midterm Elections – a sentiment that was recently echoed in August by President Trump’s Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and other leaders on his national security team.
“I fully share the intelligence community’s assessments and past efforts and those today to interfere with our election and of the current threat,” said Coats. “Our adversaries have shown they have the willingness and capability to interfere in our elections.”
“We continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States. We also know the Russians tried to hack into and steal information from candidates and government officials alike,” said Coats. “We will continue to monitor and warn of any such efforts.”
In addition, Graham Brookie, head of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab and other digital forensic experts believe the new policy for this election cycle won’t amount to much change as the Facebook fact-checkers will likely be bombarded with flagged posts, making it impossible to sift through and check each one for accuracy.
Bookie went even as far to say that until Facebook implements a serious policy to stop the spread of misinformation, then false news and reports will continue to thrive on the social media platform, harming the search for truth by everyday Americans and opening the door for foreign interference in future elections.
“Without a clear and transparent policy to curb the deliberate spread of false information that applies across platforms, we will continue to be vulnerable.”