Technical Difficulties: New poll says shut it all down

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This week in Technical Difficulties: Accountable Tech releases new polling, Facebook’s Oversight Board gets REAL, crackdowns on election disinformation fall short, and Twitter wants us to read articles before we tweet… those monsters!

 NEW POLLING

With misinformation undermining the response to coronavirus and threatening our democracy, voters expect and demand more from social media platforms.

Today we’re releasing our second round of polling with GQR Research on Americans’ views of social media companies, their leaders, and the lack of confidence they have in plans to protect users from misinformation. Here are some of the highlights:

  • A majority of voters – 54% of Ds and 51% of Rs – support shutting social media platforms down altogether (!) for the week of the election.

  • Four in five voters (79%) say social media companies need to do more to protect democracy and just 14% of voters are extremely or very confident in social media platforms’ ability to prevent their misuse to influence the election.

  • Facebook is widely used and is also the least trusted platform for news. The company’s net favorability plummeted from -4 to -15 in just six weeks since our last poll.

  • Nearly two thirds of voters (62%) say they are not confident in social media platforms to prevent misinformation this election season.

  • Voters overwhelmingly support a wide range of policies to curb voting misinformation, many of which were proposed in Accountable Tech’s new Election Integrity Roadmap:

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 FACEBOOK’S OVERSIGHT BOARD GETS REAL

Mark Zuckerberg started touting a so-called ‘Supreme Court’ of Facebook in 2018, saying it would launch the next year. Needless to say, the much-hyped experiment is a little behind schedule.

With a monumental election looming and Facebook debacles spiraling around the world, Accountable Tech launched a sustained campaign to call out the Oversight Board’s delays and deficiencies. In July, Facebook finally admitted they wouldn’t launch until late fall, which unleashed a fury of criticism. They’ve been silent ever since… until this week. Facebook announced the Oversight Board would launch in October and made board members available for interviews.

So why the sudden press onslaught? It turns out that 25 high-profile critics decided to take matters into their own hands and launch a “Real Facebook Oversight Board” which will debate urgent content issues before the election. When Facebook found out about the effort, they tried to strongarm its funders and decided to  launch their own PR rollout.

  • Reuters: Facebook’s Oversight Board plans to launch just before U.S. election

    • “Tech watchdog Accountable Tech, which launched a campaign asking the board’s members to demand ‘real authority’ or resign, said in a statement on Thursday the launch would be ‘too late to address Facebook’s deficiencies ahead of the election.’”

  • USA Today: “Warning of an urgent threat to democracy, civil rights activists say they’ve formed an independent Facebook oversight board to scrutinize the role the social media giant is playing in the 2020 election. The ‘Real Facebook Oversight Board’ is an initiative from Citizens, a new nonprofit created to hold big tech accountable.”

  • NBC News: While Facebook works to create an oversight board, industry experts formed their own

    • “When [Facebook] learned of it, a representative tracked down the people at the philanthropic investment firm Omidyar Network who had funded The Citizens to express the company’s disappointment… Brent Harris, Facebook’s director of governance and global affairs, contacted three people involved in funding the project to tell them that they were undermining the company’s own effort and playing into the hands of conservative critics of its planned board, including some people in Facebook’s Washington, D.C., policy unit, who want to see the effort fail.”

  • The Verge: Facebook’s Oversight Board won’t launch in time to oversee the election — and activists aren’t happy

    • “Accountable Tech, a nonprofit that has long criticized Facebook for its moderation failures, said the failure to oversee campaign content underscored the broader failure of the project. ‘If Oversight Board members want to enact meaningful change, rather than continuing to prop up Facebook’s Potemkin court, they should demand real authority or resign and speak out,’ the group said in a statement.”

THANKS FOR TRYING?

The good news is that social media platforms have been acknowledging some long-festering problems of late – from the growth QAnon movement to election integrity threats – and making bolder promises to confront them. The bad news is that they keep failing to deliver on those promises. Here are some of this week’s lowlights…

  • CNN: Analysis: Big Tech is falling short as Trump and his allies poison the well with disinformation

  • Politico: RBG Conspiracy Theories, Disinformation Flood Facebook

  • Forbes: Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube Need To Take Responsibility For Election Integrity

  • Daily Telegraph: Lofty aspirations for Facebook groups risk linking wrong people

  • CNN: Facebook allowed hundreds of misleading super PAC ads, activist group finds

  • Forbes: Donald Trump Jr. Alleges ‘Millions’ Of Fake Ballots In New, Unfounded Trump Campaign Video

SOME GOOD THINGS!

We know we’re keen to point out the failures of the social media giants, but we want to make sure we’re recognizing the good things, too.

Twitter has been testing prompts for users to actually read articles before they share them, and the newly released results were very encouraging. Snapchat has been registering insane amounts of Gen Z voters and YouTube is rolling out new information panels for all videos about mail-in voting. Facebook continues to crack down on foreign influence operations.

See, good things!

  • TechCrunch: Twitter plans to bring prompts to ‘read before you retweet’ to all users  |  “Twitter says the prompts worked, and users opened articles before sharing them 40% more often than they did without the nudge. Users in the test group apparently opened an article and then retweeted it 33% more than they did without the test prompt.

  • Bloomberg: “Snap’s registration push, which takes on a task that high school teachers and other adult role models may neglect during the pandemic, has the potential for real election impact… As soon as Snap users turn 18, they get a prompt to register as part of an in-app birthday recognition. The company has spurred 862,000 registrations in 2020 and expects to hit 1 million soon.”

  • Daily Dot: “YouTube will now add labels to videos about mail-in voting directing users to information about the voting method as it attempts to stop the spread of misinformation ahead of the upcoming election.”

  • New York Times: Facebook Takes Down Networks Linked to Russian Disinformation

 POTPOURRI

  • Buzzfeed: The Victims Of Violence During The Kenosha Protests Are Suing Facebook

  • Yahoo! News: In apparent play for QAnon supporters, GOP attack ads claim Democrat lawmakers are defending ‘sex offenders’

  • Fast Company: UPDATE: Facebook now says it will reject Trump ads prematurely claiming victory Nov. 4  (Hurray for minimal progress!)

  • Mother Jones: Facebook Is Restricting Its Workers’ Political Speech and They’re Pissed

  • TIME: ‘The Devil Will Be in the Details.’ How Social Media Platforms Are Bracing For Election Chaos

  • Reuters: House antitrust panel announces hearing as D.C. awaits Big Tech repo

  • Politico: How Trump’s Shot at WeChat Could Hit Americans Instead

  • Bloomberg: Trump Suffers Another Loss in the TikTok Showdown With China

  • Recode: Amazon employees fear HR is targeting minority and activism groups in email monitoring program

  • New York Times: Jamelle Bouie: Facebook Has Been a Disaster for the World