Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be on high alert on Election Day and afterward for any effort to destabilize the election or delegitimize results.
Here are the biggest takeaways from a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, taken after the final presidential debate.
All the preparations of the past four years to protect the election haveÂ come down to this. Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube are pulling on their battle fatigues. They will beÂ on high alert Tuesday and in coming days for any effort to destabilize the election or delegitimize the results.
This heightened state is the result of the 2016 presidential election when the major online platforms were caught with their guard down as Russians inflamed the electorate with divisive messages and falsehoods and hoaxes ran rampant.
This time, the stakes are even higher. The full-blown partisan warfare of presidential campaigning that has ripped through social media in recent months may lead to an unprecedented torrent of misinformation, voter suppression efforts,Â even fomenting of violence, observers say.
“Platforms know this is a referendum on their futures and how theyâll be regulated. The public is aware of the risks and social media companies know they need to demonstrate they are trying,” said JenniferÂ Grygiel,Â a communications professor at Syracuse University who studies social media, told USA TODAY.
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Facebook says it has invested billions of dollars and assigned more than 35,000 people to fight harmful content from âcoordinated inauthentic behaviorâ (accounts that work together to spread misinformation) to foreign interference to election-related misinformation.
If a presidential candidate or party declares premature victory before the race is called by major media outlets, Facebook will add labels on candidatesâ posts and will put a notification at the top of News Feed to alert voters that no winner has been projected. It will also continue to show updated and accurate information in the Voting Information Center.
After polls close, Facebook will run a notification at the top of Facebook and Instagram and label voting-related posts from everyone, including politicians, with a link to its Voting Information Center giving the latest state-by-state results for president, the Senate, and the House.
A voting alerts tool will allow state and local election authorities to reach constituents with notifications on Facebook. The voting alerts will also appear in the Voting Information Center.Â
President Donald Trump supporters and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden supporters square off in front of Penn Place office building in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. The Luzerne County Election Bureau is located inside Penn Place where early walk-in voting has started. (Photo: Mark Moran, AP)
Facebook has readied âbreak-glassâ tools to deploy if election-related violence erupts. These tools slow the spread of inflammatory posts.
Facebook stopped accepting new political ads a week before the election and plans to suspend all political ads on Facebook and Instagram after the polls close Tuesday.
It has also temporarily limited popular features, turningÂ off political and social group recommendations, removingÂ a feature in Instagram hashtag pages and restricting the forwarding of messages in its WhatsApp messaging app.
Before the election, Twitter made aggressive changes to curb misinformation by labeling tweets on mail-in voting and COVID-19, even from prominent political figures including President Trump.
On Election Day, the company says it will take action against any tweet that claims victory before the election is called by state election officials or projected by authoritative national news outlets.
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Tweets that include premature claims of victory will be labeled and will direct users to Twitterâs election page which contains credible election information. The company says it may add a warning label or remove tweets that incite people to interfere with the election or encourage violence.
Twitter said it would prioritize labeling tweets about the presidential race and any other hotly contested races âwhere there may be significant issues with misleading information.â
When people attempt to retweet a tweet with a misleading information label, theyâll see a prompt pointing them to credible information before they are able to amplify it.
During the election and at least through election week, Twitter will try toÂ slow down the spread of misinformation by encouraging users to add their own commentary before amplifying content (in other words prompting them to âQuote Tweetâ instead of retweeting someone elseâs post).Â
You will have to tap through a warning to see tweets with misleading information from U.S. political figures, U.S. based accounts with more than 100,000 followers or accounts that get a lot of engagement, Twitter says. You will not be able to retweet those posts but you can quote tweet them.Â Likes, retweets and replies will also be turned off.
In September, Twitter launched an election hub to make it easier for users to find accurate voting and election information. It also bannedÂ political ads before the election. Its stand:Â political reach âshould be earned, not bought.â
On Election Day, YouTube, the popular video platform owned by Google, says it will prominently display election results in an information panel at the top of search results for a wide range of queries related to the election and under videos that discuss the election.
The panel will warn users that the results may not be final and will link to a Google election page which will track results in real time based on data from The Associated Press.
As polls close, YouTube will also point users to live streams of election night coverage from authoritative news outlets. YouTube said it would âelevateâ these outlets in election-related news and information queries in search results and âwatch nextâ panels, too.
YouTube says it does not allow videos that mislead voters or that encourage people to interfere in the election and will quickly take down any violating videos.
Google says it will temporarily suspend election ads on Google and YouTube after the polls close.Â
Twitter, United States Presidential election, 2020, Donald Trump, Social media
World news – US – Election Day turns into judgment day for social media: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are on high alert