Social media giant Twitter on Thursday unveiled a series of changes it will make to the platform in the leadup to the 2022 midterm elections in the United States in the hopes of protecting “civic conversation,” the company announced in a statement.
Since 2018, the company has used its Civic Integrity Policy to help curb the spread of misinformation around elections in countries around the world. This year’s policy includes some familiar guidance – like “prebunks,” or prompts on the Twitter home screen to help users find accurate information about relevant topics – while others will be updated, like the company’s new way of preventing misleading tweets from spreading further.
Earlier this year, Twitter tested improved recommendation settings so that tweets with misinformation do not get boosted through notifications. The company said the research led to a monthly decrease in 1.6 million impressions on tweets containing false information.
“We’ve since applied this intervention to notification recommendations on Twitter and are exploring possibilities for other surfaces on Twitter,” the company wrote in part.
Another update, which was tested by the company last year, put labels on misleading tweets, which led to a 17% increase in click-throughs of people searching for accurate information.
As primaries have taken place across the country, Twitter has also rolled out regional hubs for state-specific elections, offering users a one-stop shop to find information about candidates, voting rules and news from local journalists.
While the changes are incremental, Twitter has faced increased scrutiny in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential elections to curb misinformation – particularly after a former company employee testified in front of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill, telling lawmakers about the social media site’s failure to take action as then-President Donald Trump continued to tweet falsehoods about the results of the election.
The individual told the committee of their “desperate efforts to get Twitter to do something” about Donald Trump’s rhetoric in the leadup to Jan. 6, per Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., who said the anonymous individual was employed on the social media site’s platform and content moderation team from 2020 through 2021.
“The night of January 5, I believe I Slacked a message to someone that said something along the lines of: ‘when people are shooting each other tomorrow I will try and rest in the knowledge that we tried,’” the individual, whose identity has been hidden for their safety, told the committee in recorded testimony.
“I don't know that I slept that night, to be honest with you. I was on pins and needles because again for months I had been begging, anticipating and attempting to raise the reality that if nothing, if we did no intervention and to what I saw occurring people were going to die,” the employee said. “And on January 5, I realized no intervention was coming.
“Even as hard as I had tried to create one or implement one, there was nothing and we were at the whims and the mercy of a violent crowd that was locked and loaded,” the employee added.
Then-President Donald Trump tweeted nearly two dozen times in the day before the insurrection, often praising Republicans who supported his efforts to overturn the election or encouraging vice president Mike Pence to unilaterally do so.
The site later permanently suspended Trump from Twitter “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
But it’s unclear how the social media platform is handling current candidates who maintain the election was stolen, a claim that has been repeatedly disproven. Twitter’s civic integrity policy does cover “false information about the outcome of the election,” and says that tweets with this content “may be labeled with links to credible information or helpful context, and Twitter will not recommend or amplify this content in areas of the product where Twitter makes recommendations.”
In three swing states, three candidates for secretary of state are running on falsehoods about 2020. All are backed by Trump.
One is Arizona’s Mark Finchem, who spoke to constituents the day before the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, saying: “When you steal something, that’s not really a win. That’s a fraud.”
Finchem has doubled down on those statements during his campaign for secretary of state – and now, more than 18 months later, says Joe Biden’s win in Arizona should be decertified.
Last week, Finchem won the state’s Republican primary race for the position.
Then there’s Kari Lake, a candidate for governor in Arizona who similarly won the GOP primary in her race, who recently called Joe Biden an “illegitimate president.”
Neither tweet from Finchem or Lake was flagged by Twitter as containing misinformation. Spectrum News has reached out to Twitter for clarification on their policies.