Twitter Scrambled For The Midterms

Approximately 20 Twitter workers have volunteered to assist the company’s internal “Election Squad” in enforcing its rules in the last days before the midterm elections. This week, volunteers received intensive training on how to identify propaganda bots, identify election misinformation, and report suspected violations of Twitter’s rules to the company’s policy staff.

Since 2018, the firm has used a “all hands on deck” strategy during important elections, with content moderators working around the clock for a week prior to and following the election in order to stem the flow of viral lies, intimidation campaigns, and foreign influence operations.

Twitter Scrambled For The Midterms
Twitter Scrambled For The Midterms

But the firm is in more disarray than ever before this election year, increasing the possibility that shady political strategists could use the platform to confuse voters or undermine the integrity of results. Twitter has had a rough year since its CEO was replaced; hundreds of staff have reportedly gone, and a whistleblower at a high level has warned that the firm lacks the means to police its own election regulations globally.

Elon Musk, a billionaire, is likely to finalize his purchase of Twitter for $44 billion this coming Friday, adding to the uncertainty. He has signaled a willingness to reverse Twitter’s efforts to moderate content, bring back some of the platform’s most egregious peddlers of electoral disinformation, and fire as many as 75% of the company’s employees. It’s unclear how his adjustments to Twitter’s midterm strategy will play out.

According to Edward Perez, formerly the director of Twitter’s product team in charge of civic integrity, which includes the company’s election standards, concerns have been raised about the company’s ability to keep up with the increasing volume and sophistication of misinformation since 2020. The OSET Institute, a nonpartisan group concerned with election security and integrity, has welcomed Perez to its board of directors.

Katie Rosborough, a representative for Twitter, said that the business is recruiting volunteers in advance of the midterms. She added that Twitter has already done so in 2020 for the U.S. presidential election and in the most recent elections in Brazil.

“People use Twitter to find real-time, reliable information about elections, and our investment in this work underscores how seriously we take that responsibility,” Rosborough said.

From the Arab Spring to the Trump presidency to #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, Twitter has played a pivotal role in global politics that belies the company’s relatively small size compared with rivals such as Meta and Alphabet. Following the 2017 revelations of Russian influence programs that exploited social platforms to inflame societal issues in the United States in advance of the 2016 presidential election, Twitter, like its competitors, began investing more extensively in content moderation. It has mobilized its staff in an effort to “guard the debate” about key political events.

However, it has frequently looked helpless in the face of the swarms of bots and the speed with which lies may spread over its platform.

The fact that hundreds of Republican candidates have bought into Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen has made the midterms difficult for social media sites like Twitter. Some of these candidates and their supporters have taken to social media to spread rumors of vote-buying and other forms of electoral fraud.

There are a lot riding on Twitter’s choices. It has been warned by experts that social media misinformation could damage public confidence in the electoral process and the legitimacy of the vote. In a campaign season where control of the House and Senate is up for grabs, firms must make difficult choices about what information to leave up and what to remove.

Twitter’s 2022 midterms plan, released in August, is mainly a rehash of the company’s techniques from prior election cycles, such as highlighting reliable sources of information about the election while limiting the spread of disinformation. When asked about assertions that the 2020 election was rigged, Twitter stated it would label such content as “misinformation” or remove it entirely.

According to two sources familiar with the company’s internal debates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe them, the company previously scaled back on this so-called “civic integrity” policy after the 2020 election ended, despite internal concern that election deniers were still using it to push lies and distortions. Rosborough stated that “as harms and hazards around the contest evolved,” the business “ramped down enforcement” of its U.S. election regulations.

 

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