Politics Facebook Is a 'Super Spreader' of Election Misinformation
Florida's Latino voters being bombarded with right-wing misinformation, advocates say
Misinformation swirling around the 2020 presidential race is reaching an "alarming" number of Latino voters in Florida through social media sites, advocacy groups said. The experts voiced concern that the barrage of misleading messages about presidential candidate Joe Biden and the coronavirus, often containing right-wing conspiracy theories, could swing the state vote.
Less than a week ahead of the U.S. presidential election, misinformation relating to voting and election security is flourishing on Facebook, despite the platform's pledge to curb such content, a NewsGuard investigation has found.
NewsGuard has identified 40 Facebook pages that are "super-spreaders" of election-related misinformation, meaning that they have shared false content about voting or the electoral process to their audiences of at least 100,000 followers. Only three of the 53 posts we identified on these pages—which together reach approximately 22.9 million followers—were flagged by Facebook as false. Four of the pages have managers based outside the U.S.—in Mexico,Vietnam, Australia, and Israel—despite the pages' focus on American politics.
Facebook touts free speech. In Vietnam, it's aiding in censorship
To protect its business in an important market, Facebook increasingly removes content that Vietnam's authoritarian government doesn't like.In a country with no independent media, Facebook provides the only platform where Vietnamese can read about contentious topics such as Dong Tam, a village outside Hanoi where residents were fighting authorities’ plans to seize farmland to build a factory.
The myths identified by NewsGuard include false claims of mail-in ballots getting thrown away, narratives that dead people's cast ballots count as votes, and false claims about poll watchers. The claims about poll watchers cut both ways, with players on both the right and the left pushing their own, self-serving myths, NewsGuard found.
NewsGuard's analysis also found that election-related myths often seize on routine and solvable voting errors as examples of malpractice or deception, sowing distrust in the electoral process. Others seem based on either an unintentional or willful misunderstanding of rules and practices.
The false stories NewsGuard identified sometimes included multiple election myths, while other articles did not fit neatly with one particular election myth. Nevertheless, all the articles NewsGuard identified advanced inaccurate information about the voting process.
40 Facebook pages identified as 'super-spreaders' of election misinformation are reaching millions of users
There are 40 pages on Facebook that act as 'super-spreaders' of voting and election misinformation, according to a new report. NewsGuard, an international news media watchdog, found that these pages, which reach more than 22 million Facebook users in total, are thriving. Of the 53 total individual posts that NewsGuard found were "super-spreaders" of election myths, only three had warnings from Facebook as containing misinformation.
For example, one popular Facebook post recently claimed that Pennsylvania had rejected 372,000 ballots, when in fact, Pennsylvania officials had actually rejected 372,000 ballot applications. The rejection of absentee ballot applications is not uncommon, nor is it necessarily evidence of anything untoward. Moreover, a registered voter whose application to vote by mail was rejected can still vote in person. This falsehood appeared in an article published on 100PercentFedUp.com, a NewsGuard Red-rated (or generally unreliable) site. Patty McMurray, the co-owner of the site and the author of the article, told NewsGuard that her site had corrected the article to reflect the distinction between ballots and ballot applications. However, the false, uncorrected post remains accessible on Facebook and appears on at least five large Facebook pages. This claim was one of dozens that Facebook did not flag as false.
Fact check: Mail-in ballots arriving after Election Day will count in some states
A viral post on Facebook claims any ballot received after Election Day will not be counted. That's partly false, many states have extensions in place.A recent viral post on Facebook claims that any mail-in ballots arriving after Election Day won’t be counted.
When a Utah county accidentally sent out 13,000 absentee ballots without a signature line, the NewsGuard Red-rated site LawEnforcementToday.com called this a "cheat-by-mail scheme." The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Sanpete County Clerk quickly learned of the mistake, which was a printing error, and immediately put information online explaining to voters how to correctly submit their ballot. There was no evidence that the mistake was part of a voter fraud scheme. But on October 15, the post was shared to three connected Facebook pages, with a total reach of 1.1 million followers. None of the posts were marked as false by Facebook's fact-checkers.
Conspiratorial stories abounded, with articles warning of violence or other disastrous and unlawful election outcomes with no evidence to support their claims. Greg Palast, a liberal investigative journalist, predicted that 6 million people will vote by mail in Florida, but claimed their votes will likely not be counted. "The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature will say, we can't count them in time, so we're not going to certify the election," Palast wrote, suggesting this move would be part of a ploy to send the decision to the U.S. House, which under the 12th Amendment decides the president if no majority is reached in the electoral college.
Hillicon Valley: Biden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked | Majority of voters in three swing states saw ads on social media questioning election validity: poll | Harris more often the target of online misinformation
Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don't already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.BIDEN CAMPAIGN CLAPS BACK: The Biden campaign slammed Facebook on Thursday night after thousands of its ads were blocked due to a technical glitch in the platform's preelection ban on political ads.
There is no evidence to suggest that the Florida legislature will refuse to certify the state's results. This article, shared on Facebook to Palast's 109,000 followers, was not flagged as false by Facebook. The three Facebook posts that were flagged by fact-checkers did not include such warnings until after the myth had been published and shared, due to the platform's practice of not providing advance warnings to users about pages that have been known to publish misinformation or hoaxes in the past. Had such warnings existed, Facebook users would have known in advance that they might be exposed to misinformation when reading those pages' posts.
Despite Facebook's announced efforts to stop the spread of this type of misinformation, these pages continue to be allowed to publish blatant misinformation about voting and the electoral process — seemingly in violation of the platform's content policies. New false stories emerge daily, with inaccurate and deceptive interpretations of events that are perfectly normal. The result is that Facebook has exposed tens of millions of Americans to falsehoods about America's electoral process.
Fact check: Key Senate races left uncalled due to uncounted ballots, not fraud .
A Facebook post claims the election is fraudulent because states that won GOP Senate seats can't be called for the president. That's not how it works.“So they want us to believe that the same states that Republican Senators won are too close to call for the Republican President? Fraud!” the post reads.