Civil rights, democracy groups call on social media companies to combat election disinformation

Social media giants are being urged to invest in non-English disinformation.

October 14, 2022, 5:57 PM

Eleven civil rights and democracy groups have sent a new letter calling for social media CEOs to combat and curb the rampant problem of election disinformation ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. Advocates warn that they expect disinformation to increase as Election Day draws near.

Advocates have been calling on the social media giants to do more to combat disinformation for months. In May, 120 organizations called on the platforms to do more to combat disinformation and on Thursday, the 11 organizations that sent the letter to the CEOs of Meta (Facebook), Twitter, YouTube, Snap, Instagram, TikTok, and Alphabet claimed that "the platforms have simply rolled out essentially the same set of policies that led to the social media election disinformation disaster two years ago."

PHOTO: Hannah Emerson, 22, an operations director for a tech firm in Ohio, fills in her ballot during primary voting, May 3, 2022, in Lordstown, Ohio.
Hannah Emerson, 22, an operations director for a tech firm in Ohio, fills in her ballot during primary voting, May 3, 2022, in Lordstown, Ohio.
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The advocates wrote that the "disinformation narratives about voting procedures and policies continue to proliferate, including false information about the use and security of mail-in ballots, drop boxes, and ballot collection." They added, "Preemptive false claims of fraud are now spreading before elections take place, and election workers are increasingly harassed online."

This is not the first time advocates have been concerned about disinformation as several of the civil rights groups who signed onto the letter were vocal leading up to the 2020 election about concerns. The organizations wrote to the CEO's "disinformation around the 2022 midterms is inextricably intertwined with disinformation from the 2020 presidential election, with bad actors recycling many of the false claims made just two years prior."

Additionally, the advocacy groups called on the social media giants to focus and invest more in non-English disinformation. They noted in their letter, "all users should be able to use your platforms without being inundated by election disinformation regardless of the languages they speak."

PHOTO: Voters wait in line to cast ballots outside a polling location at North Christian Church in Cheyenne, Wyo., on Aug. 16, 2022.
Voters wait in line to cast ballots outside a polling location at North Christian Church in Cheyenne, Wyo., on Aug. 16, 2022.
Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

A spokesperson for Meta told ABC News the company has invested $5 million in fact-checking and media literacy initiatives ahead of the November midterms. The company has partnered with Telemundo, TelevisaUnivision, and Reuters to launch fact-checking tip lines in Spanish on WhatsApp and now offer free media literacy courses on SMS and WhatsApp to help teach individuals to identify misinformation, the spokesperson said. The social media giant says it has built the largest global fact-checking network of any platform with more than 90 fact-checking partners globally.

A spokesperson for Snap told ABC News the company doesn't "allow unvetted content the opportunity to 'go viral.' Snap does not offer an open newsfeed where people or publishers can broadcast false information." Ahead of the midterms, Snap says it has established an internal process for information-sharing and monitoring the effectiveness of it's companies polices ensuring that they can calibrate their approach as needed.

Snap added that it will "help mitigate the risks of foreign interference in elections, we prohibit the purchase of political ads from outside the country in which the ad will run."

A spokesperson for TikTok told ABC News, "We take our responsibility to protect the integrity of our platform and elections with utmost seriousness. We continue to invest in our policy, safety, and security teams to counter election misinformation, and we provide access to authoritative information through our Election Center, which is available in more than 45 languages."

ABC News reached out to Twitter and Alphabet, who did not yet return requests for comment.

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