In an interview last week, Twitter CEO Elon Musk said those who falsely claim stolen elections “will be corrected.”
Musk said, “Oh yeah, 100%,” when asked by a CNBC reporter.
In the week since former President Donald Trump spent much of a CNN town hall digging into his lie that the 2020 election was “rigged” against him, numerous such claims have flourished on Twitter. A examination of Twitter posts shows thousands of shares of bogus statements with no action.
Musk’s vow and Twitter’s dissemination of the accusations highlight a fundamental issue for social media companies trying to debunk election conspiracy theories and lies promoted by Trump and his followers. As the nation prepares for a 2020 presidential race in which Trump is again running, that will only increase.It’s unclear if Musk and his new CEO, Linda Yaccarino, would reform Twitter to combat misinformation, which election experts and tech accountability advocates say increases dangers to election officials and erodes democracy.
“Talk is cheap,” said former Justice Department lawyer David Becker, who now heads the nonprofit Center for Election Innovation and Research. “It’s good that he recognizes Twitter’s responsibility. However, since it’s happening now, we must see this action taken.
The Associated Press analyzed Zignal Labs’ top 10 “rigged election” tweets in the five days after Trump’s town hall.
Twitter allows users to give context to false tweets, but the 10 articles with over 43,000 retweets did not.
The most extensively circulated tweets were fraudulent assertions from U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Republican Kari Lake, who lost her Arizona governorship last year.
An AP search found that 10 tweets and dozens of others claiming a “stolen” or “rigged” 2020 or 2022 election remained live and unlabeled on Twitter as of Thursday, despite Twitter’s civic integrity and misleading information policy.
Twitter told CNN in January 2022 that it had stopped fighting 2020 election misinformation, arguing its policy was created for usage during an election cycle, not after one. Musk took control the platform in October.
Trump’s recent media appearances reveal that he is making false accusations that the 2020 election was fraudulent a central part of his GOP nomination campaign.
Tech accountability activists claimed it’s hard to control Twitter’s massive content and that election misinformation appears on other platforms. TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms promote lies.
Since taking charge, Musk has restored notorious election deniers, redesigned Twitter’s verification system, and fired most of the moderators. Jesse Lehrich, co-founder of Accountable Tech, a nonprofit monitoring group, said those choices have fostered lies.
“I think they had inadequate resources… “He’s worsening it,” Lehrich remarked. He sacked Twitter’s trust and safety team, so they can’t enforce its civic integrity principles.
As it does with most media requests, Twitter issued the AP an automatic response and did not address election misinformation.
Anjana Susarla, a social media researcher and professor at Michigan State University, said platforms should block known misinformation sources, label it, adopt community enforcement standards, and deprioritize misinformation in trending topics.
Musk’s Twitter use complicates Twitter’s misinformation response. He promoted election conspiracies on Twitter.
He tweeted a response to a false assertion that a Center for Election Innovation and Research conference was “secret” and “HYPER PARTISAN” last week.
Musk told his roughly 140 million followers that the gathering was “far left” and odd that authorities from “pivotal regions” would attend. The conference had a public website with links to its agenda, a list of Republican and Democratic speakers, and a livestream that anyone could watch.
Musk’s statement sparked stolen-election claims from other Twitter users.
He understands… “He knows the elections were stolen massively,” one Twitter user remarked.
“Exactly. “They’re coordinating 2024’s theft,” wrote another.
The center’s executive director, Becker, said popular Twitter users spreading election officials’ lies pose “threats to their safety, to their offices, to their staff.”
“That makes democracy more vulnerable and stresses them as humans,” he said.
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