Technical Difficulties: Voting in an infodemic

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Happy post-Labor Day. No, it’s not a fever dream. It really is September and the 2020 election is now in full swing. Voting begins in just a few days in some key battlegrounds. So log in and get excited — Technical Difficulties has you covered. 


This week Accountable Tech released our comprehensive Election Integrity Roadmap for social media platforms as they navigate this election season fraught with challenges.

The Roadmap puts forward a number of proposals – all rooted in platforms’ existing policies and tools – that would stem the most dangerous vectors of disinformation and incitement between now and official election results. To encourage platforms to embrace these recommendations we’re launching a $250,000 advertising campaign, as well as a petition drive and other grassroots resources available here.

TL;DR? — check out our sweet Two-Page Summary.

Highlights include:

  • As early voting begins: Implement an Election Integrity Strike System with tiered penalties to progressively limit the reach and impact of serial disinformers, defanging the worst actors before the most volatile period of the election season.
  • As ‘Election Day’ nears: Implement a Platform Poll Watchers program that empowers state election directors and NGOs with expertise in voting rights, election law, or disinformation to promote credible information and responsibly counter false narratives in real-time.
  • As polls close: Implement a Violence Prevention Preclearance process, automatically flagging election-related posts from the highest-reach accounts for rapid human review to preempt content that would violate violence incitement or civic integrity policies before it’s published.



That was an autocomplete joke. (okay, ‘joke’ is generous…)

Twitter rolled out an expanded Civic Integrity Policy on Thursday that recognizes the harm done to our democracy when false attacks on elections go unchecked. They outlined strong measures to limit the reach of these posts and to provide factual context to inoculate users, as well as new restrictions on misleading posts about results. We’ll withhold final judgment until the updated policy is implemented on September 17 and Twitter proves they can enforce them consistently, at scale, in real-time –– but on paper (or webpage, or whatever), this is a major step forward.

Google also announced that they would eliminate autocomplete suggestions targeting candidates or voting, which is … a thing that Google announced. It doesn’t exactly feel like a game-changer, but hey, we’re for anything that might help tame the infocalypse. All of this comes on the heels of Facebook’s announcements last week, which ranged from somewhat useful to actively harmful, which failed to adequately address the greatest threats.

  • CNBC: Twitter to remove or label tweets intended to undermine U.S. election

  • Washington Post: Twitter steps up its fight against election misinformation

  • NPR: Twitter’s New Rules Aim To Prevent Confusion Around The 2020 Vote

  • Politico: Twitter’s new rules will flag it if Trump claims early victory

  • CNN: Twitter expands rules against election-related misinformation, setting up showdown with Trump

  • AP: Twitter to label or remove misleading claims on vote results

  • TechCrunch: Twitter’s rule address worries over ‘peaceful transfers of power’ in U.S. election

  • CNBC: Google says it will block autocomplete for searches that suggest voting outcomes

  • TechCrunch: Google says it’s eliminating Autocomplete suggestions that target candidates or voting

MIKE PENCE CLONE COLLECTS QANON CASH                                          

One theory that’s made its way around the QAnon discussion boards is that Mike Pence was actually executed for disloyalty some time ago and has since been replaced by a clone. Nevertheless, the Vice President is set to speak at a fundraiser hosted by QAnon supporters next week.

In our last newsletter, we highlighted the growing comfort the Republican Party has with QAnon believers, as well as the violent, real-world consequences of these fringe beliefs. As a reminder, the FBI has warned that QAnon poses a potential domestic terror threat. It’s wildly irresponsible for leaders to continue normalizing this extremist movement. But I guess once you’ve blown through $800 million before election season, cash is king.

  • AP Exclusive: Pence to attend event hosted by QAnon backers

  • CNN: Pence expected to attend fundraiser hosted by QAnon supporters

  • The Guardian: Mike Pence slated to speak at fundraiser hosted by QAnon supporters

Here’s some more selected reading on QAnon from this past week…

FACEBOOK LAUNCHES FACEBOOK                                                              

Facebook announced the launch of Facebook Campus, which is… essentially a Facebook Group?

The company says the new feature will help students connect with friends, find people who share interests, and will feature a campus-only news feed. It’s a lovely homage to Facebook’s dorm room founding, back before the company was in a position to incite genocide or sway presidential elections.

Side note: it’s great to know that Facebook is perfectly capable of creating more controlled communities that aren’t ruled by engagement-obsessed algorithms. As we’ve highlighted, these algorithms have mainstreamed extremist movementscreated white suprepacist echo chambers, and promoted dangerous coronavirus hoaxes.

Users should be able to choose if they want an algorithm curating content on Facebook. You can read more about these algorithms on our campaign webpage, Facebook: Turn Off The Algorithms, here.


Before we get to the rest of this week’s stories, a quick plug: We strongly recommend readers check out the new Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, which was produced by our friends at Exposure Labs with support from the Center for Humane Technology. More importantly, Andrew Yang recommends you watch it. It’s a really compelling dive into how attention-hungry algorithms shape our modern reality.

  • Yahoo: Russia, China and Iran target US elections with cyberattack

  • BuzzFeed: Peter Thiel Met With The Racist Fringe As He Went All In On Trump

  • Time: How Conspiracy Theories Are Shaping the 2020 Election—and Shaking the Foundation of American Democracy

  • NBC News: As wildfires rage, false antifa rumors spur pleas from police

  • The Verge: Three takeaways from a visit to TikTok’s new transparency center

  • Politico: Democratic groups push AGs to file Google antitrust suit

  • Bloomberg: ByteDance Is Poised to Miss U.S. Deadline for TikTok Sale

  • NPR: Fortnite Fight: CEO Explains Why He Launched War Against Apple, Google