Election 2020: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube wrestle with misinformation – CNET

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Social media companies are fighting misinformation about election results.

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This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET's coverage of the run-up to voting in November.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are battling waves of misinformation amid a tight and bitterly contested presidential election that was called on Saturday morning for Democrat Joe Biden

Among the biggest challenges: President Donald Trump, who has used social networks to falsely claim the election was stolen from him. Twitter quickly appended cautionary notes to five of seven Trump tweets on Saturday morning, including one in which he wrongly claimed he had won. The tweets were posted before major news organizations made their election call.

Other challenges included imposter accounts posing as credible news organizationslive streams broadcasting bogus results and fake reports of Sharpies being used to suppress votes

Read moreHere's how to recognize misinformation on Election Day

The three big social networks have all established policies for dealing with misinformation. The measures range from applying labels to questionable information to deleting posts and banning users. The election has kept them busy.

All the social networks label questionable posts and remove falsehoods if the content has the potential to incite violence. Facebook takes a more hands-off approach to posts from politicians than Twitter, which has limited the reach of Trump's tweets. On all election-related videos and search results, YouTube applies a warning that results may not be final.

Here are some of the most significant cases of misinformation and how the social networks responded.

Facebook

  • By far the biggest challenge the social network faced has been handling posts by Trump, who used Facebook to question results as soon as the polls closed. A post late on election night by the president alleged without evidence that he was "up BIG" and his political opponents were "trying to steal the election." Facebook labeled the post with information that the vote count was ongoing and directed users to an election information center. 
  • Facebook continued adding labels to misleading posts by the president as votes were being counted. After major news organizations called the race, some labels on Trump posts identified Biden as the "projected winner." The social network added notes to some Trump posts that reminded users the vote would take longer than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic and that election officials follow strict rules.
  • Facebook added a label under a video shared on Trump's page in which the president falsely claims, "Frankly, we did win this election." Trump made the comment during a late media address that was broadcast on TV on election night. 
  • The social network shut down a massive group called "STOP THE STEAL" that was spreading false claims that Democrats were trying to swipe the election. The group had more than 364,000 members. 
  • Facebook was recommending live videos to users with election misinformation and Russian state-controlled media content, according to BuzzFeed News. The company pulled down some of the videos.

Twitter

  • Twitter added notes to five of seven on Saturday morning. Four were obscured and required users to click through in order to read them. Some of the tweets baselessly alleged misconduct in the vote count in several close states. 
  • Twitter labeled a Trump tweet that falsely alleged election tampering as "disputed" and potentially "misleading." It also obscured the president's tweet. Users can't like the tweet and can share it only if they weigh in with their own comment. 
  • Twitter subsequently labeled and obscured several Trump tweets and retweets, including one calling to "STOP THE FRAUD!" There isn't any evidence of election fraud.
  • Twitter allowed a clip of Trump's false victory claim during an election night television appearance to remain on the service without a label. Twitter said the video, which was shared by media outlets, didn't violate its policies. The video, shared by the Trump campaign account, has more than 22 million views.
  • Twitter suspended a group of accounts that posed as legitimate news organizations. Some of the accounts, which mimicked the Associated Press and CNN, spread false reports that Democrat Joe Biden had won the election. The groups appeared to be working together.

YouTube

  • The Google-owned video-sharing service added a label under the video of Trump falsely claiming victory on election night. The video has more than 414,000 views on Trump's channel. (The label, though, isn't intended only for misinformation. It appears under all election-related videos and search results.)
  • YouTube took down multiple videos livestreaming fake election results hours before polls closed anywhere in the country. The video streams, some of which ran ads that made the account holders money, were viewed by thousands of people before being removed. One of the channels carrying a stream appeared to have almost 1.5 million subscribers.
  • YouTube has been criticized for refusing to take down two videos by One America News, a far right news organization, that falsely declare victory for Trump. Despite the false claims in the videos, YouTube said they don't violate the platform's rules, which focus narrowly on voter suppression. The platform, though, will no longer show ads on the videos, depriving the network of revenue. 

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