This year’s presidential election has already proven to be a considerable test of the U.S. democratic system. It’s also been doing a fine job testing the systems behind leading social networks four years after a rather disinformation-ridden election. Twitter today has proven to be reasonably swift — if not entirely proactive — in its push to label problematic information.
Video, which is largely considered more difficult to police, has been another story on many of these sites. At issue are videos like One American News Network’s (OAN) “Trump Won.” Posted this morning, the report echoes the president’s earlier sentiment that he has both won the election and that states and/or the Democratic Party are attempting to “steal the election.” As of this writing, the election has, emphatically, not been decided.
YouTube parent Google had earlier outlined potential violations in the lead up to the election, noting that it would:
Remov[e] content that contains hacked information, the disclosure of which may interfere with democratic processes, such as elections and censuses. For example, videos that contain hacked information about a political candidate shared with the intent to interfere in an election. Removing content encouraging others to interfere with democratic processes, such as obstructing or interrupting voting procedures. For example, telling viewers to create long voting lines with the purpose of making it harder for others to vote.
After outreach, the company told the press that the video is not in violation of its Community guidelines, but added that it has pulled ads from the content.
Social media election takedowns
"Our Community Guidelines prohibit content misleading viewers about voting, for example content aiming to mislead voters about the time, place, means or eligibility requirements for voting, or false claims that could materially discourage voting," a spokesperson told TechCrunch. "The content of this video doesn't rise to that level. All search results and videos about this election -- including this video -- surface an information panel noting that election results may not be final and we are continuing to raise up authoritative content in search results and recommendations. Additionally, we remove ads from videos that contain content that is demonstrably false about election results, like this video. We will continue to be vigilant in the post-election period."
The video now also sports a "U.S. Elections" module below that notes, "Results may not be final. See the latest on Google," directing users to a search page. In a separate post, it notes that it, "aim[s] to surface videos from experts, like public health institutions, in search results," meaning that a video such as the one referenced above would theoretically be deprioritized in search under more authoritative outlets, including, CNN, Fox News, Jovem Pan, India Today and The Guardian.
The coming weeks and months will no doubt provide ample opportunity to assess these responses from these platforms and whether their responses ultimately did enough to address misinformation and disinformation during a particularly uncertain time in U.S. electoral history.