A new investigation by Common Cause’s disinformation analysts has revealed that social media giants Facebook and Twitter seem to have backed away from enforcement of their own policies and enforcement practices when it comes to combatting election-related disinformation. The white paper, “Trending in the Wrong Direction: Social Media Platforms’ Declining Enforcement of Voting Disinformation,” reveals that the social media platforms appear to have dramatically scaled-back their practices of removing or labeling dangerously false claims concerning widespread voter fraud.
In the leadup to the 2020 presidential election, Facebook, Twitter and other mainstream social media platforms expanded their policies and enforcement against election-related disinformation. Those efforts were expanded after the January 6 insurrection when violent extremists stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the election. At that point the platforms took more serious enforcement actions against President Trump and many of his allies whose false claims laid the groundwork for the insurrection.
But seven months after Joe Biden’s inauguration as President, false election claims are again proliferating on Facebook and Twitter and the social media platforms appear to be backing off from enforcing their own voting and election disinformation policies. The research shows demonstrably false claims aimed at undermining public faith in the legitimacy of President Biden’s election are still circulating online and seeing high volume and engagement. That same disinformation and growing public distrust has been harnessed by state legislators to pass anti-voter laws across the country that have targeted the freedom of Americans to vote – particularly in Black and Brown communities.