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Flag misinformation using Twitter's "report tweet" feature.

Tweet all about it! You can now report false voting-related posts

Twitter is now allowing users to report false or misleading information in tweets about voting in this year's election.

The new feature announced Wednesday allows users to flag a tweet that contains misinformation about an election in the same way one might report abusive language — by clicking "Report Tweet."

It's the latest attempt by social media companies to position themselves as a force for good in safeguarding the 2020 campaign against online efforts to suppress the vote or otherwise shape voter behavior through disinformation. For the past four years, the industry has been roundly derided for doing too little before the 2016 election to prevent its platforms from being exploited by Russians and others bent on destabilizing democracy.

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1952 Eisenhower Answers America

On TV, political ads are regulated – but online, anything goes

Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.

Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.

Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.

I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.

Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.

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Most media literacy programs have been aimed at students, but studies show adults have a harder time distinguishing factual news from opinion news.

Adults may need media literacy even more than students

The debate over how to fight disinformation in the digital age has divided leading experts and raised thorny questions about free speech and truth on the web.

Should Facebook ban political ads, as Twitter has done, or at least stop exempting politicians from its rules barring misinformation? Should social media platforms ban the "microtargeting" that allows politicians to hand pick narrow audiences while evading public scrutiny? Google recently took steps to limit microtargeting, but political players say that will just cut off small donors and hurt challengers.

Such dilemmas point to what may be the only real solution to the disinformation problem: Educating news consumers. The movement to revive civic learning has focused fresh attention on students' media literacy. But what about their parents and grandparents? Older Americans are even worse than students at distinguishing factual news from opinion news, studies have found, and are more likely to repost fraudulent stories. Yet adults have been largely left out of the push to tackle the "upstream" side of the misinformation explosion — the viewers and readers who make false stories "go viral."

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That is starting to change. The News Literacy Project, whose digital Checkology curriculum now reaches educators in every state and in 110 countries, is rolling out today a new tool specifically aimed at both students and adults. The group's new mobile app, Informable, trains users how to sort truth from fiction with games that develop fact-checking and other news literacy skills. The app enables the group to expand "beyond the classroom" to reach the general public, NLP announced Monday.

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Big Picture
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‘Thanks but no thanks’ is consensus attitude toward Twitter’s political ad ban

It was a Twitter thread heard 'round the world. CEO Jack Dorsey proclaimed no more political advertising on his platform, to which the internet replied: Bad idea.

In a clear shot at archrival Facebook — since founder Mark Zuckerberg has remained adamantly opposed to censoring any ad content on his social network — at the end of next week Twitter will be booting all paid advertising aiming to influence elections in any way. That is because, Dorsey said, "political message reach should be earned, not bought."

Since Twitter's announcement at the end of October, however, many officials and advocates who profess concern about disinformation's spread have come to agree that Twitter's move misses the point and won't prove to be that big a deal. Most misleading political content is posted for free and doesn't seek eyeballs through paid advertising, they note, and Twitter's political ad revenue is a drop in the bucket compared to what Facebook and Google get. Plus, they say, the social media giants have hardly proved themselves worthy of the public trust required of self-regulators.

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