WASHINGTON (AP) – Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta is quietly rolling back some security measures designed to combat voter misinformation and foreign interference in US elections as the midterm elections approach.
It’s a clear departure from the social media giant’s multimillion-dollar efforts to improve the accuracy of US election messaging and win back the trust of lawmakers and the public, following widespread outrage at the company over the news that it had made public exploited their data and allowed lies. During the 2016 campaigns abound on its website.
The change is raising alarm about the priorities of the meta and how some may be taking advantage of the world’s most popular social network to spread lies, launch fake accounts and fuel extremism.
“They’re not talking about it,” said Katie Harbath, former chief policy officer at Facebook, who is now CEO of tech and policy firm Anchor Change. “At best, they’re still doing a lot behind the scenes. At worst, they’ve backtracked and we don’t know how it’s going to play out across platforms in the mid-term.”
Since last year, Meta has kicked off an examination of how lies in political ads are amplified on Facebook by indefinitely banning researchers from its website.
CrowdTangle, a tool offered by the company to hundreds of newsrooms and researchers so they can identify popular messages and misinformation on Facebook and Instagram, has been down for a few days.
Public communication regarding the company’s response to election propaganda has been muted. Between 2018 and 2020, the company issued more than 30 statements detailing how it would curb electoral misinformation in the United States, prevent foreign opponents from advertising or messaging about voting, and prevent hate speech. will reduce
Top executives held question-and-answer sessions with journalists about the company’s new policies. CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote messages to voters on Facebook promising to eliminate misinformation and published op-eds via social media calling for more rules to tackle foreign interference in elections.
However, META has only released a one-page document outlining its plans for November’s elections this year, though there are clear potential threats to remaining votes. Various Republican candidates are promoting lies about the US election on social media. In addition, Russia and China have continued to run online campaigns aimed at further dividing voters in the United States.
META maintains that elections are a priority and policies developed over the years on electoral propaganda and foreign interference are now integrated into the company’s operations.
The company continues a number of initiatives it has developed to limit election misinformation, such as a fact-checking program launched in 2016 that enlists the help of media outlets to verify the veracity of popular falsehoods spread on Facebook or Instagram. Is. The Associated Press is part of META’s fact-checking program.
This month, Meta also rolled out a new feature for political ads that allows citizens to find details about how advertisers target people on Facebook and Instagram based on their interests.
However, META has thwarted other attempts to identify election misinformation circulating on its sites.
stopped improving CrowdTangle, a website it introduced to newsrooms around the world, providing insight into trending social media posts. Journalists, fact-checkers and researchers used the website to analyze Facebook content, including tracking down popular but misinformation and who is responsible for it.
Now that tool is “dying,” former CrowdTangle executive director Brandon Silverman, who left Meta last year, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in the spring.
Silverman told The Associated Press that CrowdTangle was working on updates that would make it easier to find the text of Internet memes, which can often be used to spread half-truths and evade the scrutiny of fact-checkers, For example.
“There’s really no shortage of ways to organize this data so that it is useful to the fact-checking community, the newsroom, and many different parts of civil society,” Silverman laments.
Meanwhile, regulation in the United States is likely weighed down on the company, as lawmakers have failed to reach a consensus on what oversight the billion-dollar company should be subject to.
Associated Press technology reporter Barbara Ortute contributed to this report