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A worker cleans broken glass from one of the entrances to the U.S. Capitol the day after a pro-Trump mob broke into the building on January 6, 2021. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

A worker cleans broken glass from one of the entrances to the U.S. Capitol the day after a pro-Trump mob broke into the building on January 6, 2021. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

120+ Groups Call On Social Media Giants to Combat Election Disinformation Ahead of Midterms

"The last presidential election, and the lies that continued to flourish in its wake on social media, demonstrated the dire threat that election disinformation poses to our democracy," said one advocate.

Kenny Stancil

A coalition of more than 120 civil rights, pro-democracy, and other public interest groups on Thursday implored social media giants to stem the tide of election disinformation on their platforms ahead of this fall's fast-approaching midterms.

"Every day that passes without these essential fixes is another day disinformation takes hold and weakens democracies here and abroad."

In a letter to the chief executives of Meta, Twitter, YouTube, Snap, Instagram, TikTok, and Alphabet, the coalition called on the platforms to take a variety of specific steps, including "introducing friction to reduce the spread and amplification of disinformation, consistent enforcement of robust civic integrity policies, and greater transparency into business models that allow disinformation to spread."

Signatories to the letter—including the Center for American Progress, Common Cause, Free Press, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—warned the Big Tech executives that without bold and swift action, online disinformation will continue "to confuse, intimidate, and harass voters, suppress the right to vote, or otherwise disrupt our democracy."

While many social media corporations started to strengthen content moderation and label some falsehoods in the run-up to the 2020 election, the letter notes that "platforms' follow-through on these commitments was inconsistent and insufficient to counter the deluge of disinformation."

Not only were these measures inadequate, the letter continues, but "research and investigative reporting revealed that your platforms subsequently backed away from enforcement of your own policies and practices soon after" the polls closed in November 2020, allowing disinformation and violent content to thrive between Election Day and Inauguration Day.

Today, election disinformation continues to proliferate on social media, and recent polling shows that more than 40% of Americans still deny that President Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 contest.

"The last presidential election, and the lies that continued to flourish in its wake on social media, demonstrated the dire threat that election disinformation poses to our democracy," Yosef Getachew, director of Common Cause's Media and Democracy program, said in a statement. "Social media companies must learn from what was unleashed on their platforms in 2020 and helped foster the lies that led a violent, racist mob to storm the Capitol on January 6."

The United States is approaching its first national election since then-President Donald Trump incited the deadly right-wing coup attempt based on his "Big Lie" that Biden stole the White House.

"To protect the integrity of the 2022 midterm elections and the public's confidence in American democracy," the coalition urged social media companies to immediately implement the following measures so that "they are firmly in place" by November 8:

  • Introduce friction to reduce the distribution of content containing electoral disinformation;
  • Focus on preventing disinformation targeting non-English speaking communities;
  • Consistently enforce civic integrity policies during both election and non-election cycles;
  • Prioritize enforcement to combat the "Big Lie";
  • Consistently apply civic integrity policies to all live content as a means of combating election disinformation;
  • Prioritize fact-checking of electoral content, including political advertisements and posts from public officials;
  • Provide real-time access of social media data to external researchers and watchdogs; and
  • Provide greater transparency of political advertisements, enforcement practices, and algorithmic models.

"Election disinformation targets voters year-round," said Nora Benavidez, senior counsel at Free Press and director of its Digital Justice and Civil Rights program. "Every day that passes without these essential fixes is another day disinformation takes hold and weakens democracies here and abroad."

David Brody, managing attorney for the Digital Justice Initiative at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, stressed that "social media companies own this problem because it is their platforms, their algorithms, and their business models that fuel it."

"Democracy," he added, "must be prioritized ahead of extra percentage points on a quarterly earnings report."


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