According to a new report released Monday, social media companies have weak misinformation policies and have failed to consistently enforce it before the 2022 midterm exam periods.
The report, from New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, blames Meta, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok for failing to take a proactive approach to tackling misinformation, including a growing trend of election denial and false claims of fraud.
They say the lack of a proactive approach threatens the approaching elections.
While social media companies have pledged to address electoral misinformation, the report states that the companies’ “flawed policies and inconsistent enforcement are resulting in a continued reinforcement of election denial, especially in key battlefield states.”
The report highlights Facebook’s continued exemption from its fact-checking program by politicians as a concern for increasing the spread of election denial.
It also criticizes Twitter for having an “on-and-off-again enforcement” of its civil integrity policies in a way that causes election denial to “gain momentum since early 2021”.
The report also focuses on video content, stating that YouTube has allowed its platform to be “exploited by proponents of disinformation” and that TikTok is “increasingly plagued by political misinformation”.
Paul Barrett, an author of the report, said the risk is magnified by the number of Republican candidates who have embraced election denial.
“In a sense, even if it’s a bad year, the problems are increasing, even if it’s not a presidential election. And I don’t think the platforms have appreciated the extent to which election denial seems to have become some sort of permanent part of Republican politics,” he told The Hill.
“Instead of being extra vigilant, it seems like the platforms there are just going through the motions. They’ve made statements and said this is our policy — it’s basically the same policy they’ve had in the past,” he said. .
In response, the platforms responded to researchers by defending their policies.
Meta spokesperson Tom Reynolds said in a comment quoted in the report that the platforms’ systems are designed to “reduce disinformation, not amplify it.”
“Any suggestion otherwise is wrong. We use a combination of artificial intelligence, human judgment and partner input – including fact-checkers – to address problematic content, which again is not aligned with our business interests,” said Reynolds.
The report says YouTube has not provided an on-the-record response to the report, but the company made an announcement earlier this month about its efforts to fight disinformation, including a pledge to enforce the policy “consistently for everyone, regardless of the speaker’s question.” public figure status.”
A TikTok spokesperson said in a statement quoted in the report that the company is banning and removing misinformation about elections and working with fact-checkers to review content.
Twitter, which was most heavily investigated after a whistleblower recently came forward with alleged widespread security vulnerabilities, told the report’s authors that it uses triage tools to draw attention to election-related misinformation in the US and worldwide.
To address the issue, the report recommends greater transparency from the platform’s algorithms, either from the platforms themselves or from the government passing laws to get their hands on it.
It also calls for independent audits to verify the platforms, enhanced fact-checking, removal of “demonstrably false content” and consistent policies.
The report also says platforms should focus more on the “next threat” in a proactive rather than reactive manner.
“It would be a huge improvement to find out what issues are on the horizon and what they want to do about them before they get widespread across their platforms,” Barrett said.