WASHINGTON (AP) – The CEO of Twitter says the social media site has recorded about 300,000 tweets as part of efforts to combat disinformation in the run-up to the 2020 election between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified Tuesday at a Senate Justice committee meeting called upon to question their companies’ actions over the highly contested election.
Senators are deeply divided by parties in terms of integrity and election results myself.
Prominent Republican senators ̵
Graham, a close ally of Trump, publicly called: “Don’t back down, Mr. President. Fight hard. ”
Zuckerberg and Dorsey promised lawmakers last month that they would aggressively guard their platforms from being manipulated by foreign governments or used to incite violence over the election results – and they followed with high steps that angered Trump and his supporters.
Twitter and Facebook have hit a label for misinformation on some content from Trump, most notably his allegations linking the postal vote to fraud. On Monday, Twitter tweeted Trump, announcing “I won the election! with this note: “Official sources called these elections differently.”
In his written testimony at the hearing, Dorsey said: “We applied labels to add context and limit the risk of spreading harmful misinformation in elections without important context, because the public told us that it wanted us to take these steps.”
Between October 27 and November 11, he said about 300,000 tweets were labeled for content that was contested and potentially misleading, accounting for 0.2% of all tweets related to U.S. elections sent during the period. Of the indicated tweets, 456 were also covered with a warning message and were limited in the way they could be shared. About 74% of people who viewed these tweets saw them after applying a label or warning message.
Facebook also took action two days after the election to ban a large group called Stop Theft which Trump supporters used to organize protests against the vote count. The group of 350,000 members reiterated Trump’s baseless allegations of fraudulent elections that invalidate the results.
Days after the election, while the vote count continued, Stop the Steal groups were easily found on Facebook. As of Monday, Facebook appears to have made them harder to find, although it is still possible to find them, including some groups of thousands of members.
By carefully watching how companies have the power to filter their speech and ideas, Trump and Republicans accuse social media companies of anti-conservative bias. Democrats also criticize them, albeit for various reasons. As a result, both sides are interested in removing some of the protections that protect technology companies from legal liability for what people post on their platforms. Biden heartily approved of such an action.
But the actions taken by companies around the election are likely to be the dominant focus of Tuesday’s hearing.
The Republican majority in the Judiciary Committee threatened Zuckerberg and Dorsey with subpoenas last month if they did not agree to voluntarily testify at Tuesday’s hearing. Republicans in the Senate Trade Committee put the two executives and Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, to a hearing last month as they said it was a model of silencing conservative views while giving freedom to political actors from countries like China and Iran.
Despite security concerns during the period up to November 3 and social media preparing for the worst, the election proved to be the safest in US history, say federal and government officials on both sides – dismissing Trump’s baseless allegations of fraud.
Facebook insists it has learned its lesson from the 2016 election and is no longer a channel for misinformation, voter repression and election interruptions. This fall, Facebook said it had removed a small network of accounts and pages linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, a “troll factory” that uses social media accounts to sow political discord in the United States since the 2016 election. Twitter stopped five linked accounts.
But critical outsiders, as well as some of Facebook’s own employees, say the company’s efforts to strengthen its safeguards remain insufficient, even though it has spent billions.
There is no evidence that social media giants are biased towards conservative news, publications or other material, or that they prefer one side of the political debate to another, the researchers found. But criticism of companies’ policies and their treatment of election-related misinformation has come from both Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats have focused their criticism mainly on hate speech, misinformation and other content that could incite violence, prevent people from voting or spread lies about the coronavirus. They criticize technology executives for failing to contain police content, and accuse platforms of playing a role in hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism in the United States.
AP technology author Barbara Ortutai of Oakland, California, contributed to this report.
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