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.
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.
Barrett is the deputy director of the Center for Business and Human Rights at the Stern School of Business and is an adjunct professor of law at New York University.
The Federal Election Commission has once again punted on establishing rules for identifying who is sponsoring online political advertisements. Thursday marked the fourth consecutive meeting in which the topic fell to the wayside without a clear path forward.
FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub revived debate on the topic in June when she introduced a proposal on how to regulate online political ads. In her proposal, she said the growing threat of misinformation meant that requiring transparency for political ads was "a small but necessary step."
Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen and Commissioner Caroline Hunter put forth their own proposal soon after Weintraub, but the commissioners have failed to find any middle ground. At Thursday's meeting, a decision on the agenda item was pushed off to a later date.
Weintraub's proposal says the funding source should be clearly visible on the face of the ad, with some allowance for abbreviations. But Petersen and Hunter want to allow more flexibility for tiny ads that cannot accommodate these disclaimers due to space.