December 5, 2020
How social networks are preparing for a potential October hack-and-leak

Facebook, Twitter plan to warn you if politicians prematurely declare victory


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Election misinformation is a top concern for social media platforms.


Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook and Twitter are bracing for another onslaught of misinformation ahead of election day on Tuesday, including posts that contain premature claims of victory.

As Americans turn to mail-in ballots to cast their votes amid the coronavirus pandemic, it could be unclear who the winners are on Tuesday night. Over 96 million Americans have voted already with one day left before Election Day, according to CNN, Edison Research and Catalist, with those votes representing more than 45% of registered voters across the US. Election officials have said it will likely take days to count those votes, delaying the final call on the presidential race and other notable elections taking place..

Social networks, though, are preparing for the possibility that some politicians may try to declare victory before the results are projected. President Donald Trump reportedly told confidants he’ll declare victory on election night if it appears like he’s ahead, Axios reported on Sunday. Facebook and Twitter both created new labels to warn users that the votes are still being counted and both say they plan to direct users to authoritative information.

On Monday, the social networks showed what the labels will look like. They’ll appear below posts that jump the gun on declaring who won. 

Twitter’s labels will appear in blue and display an exclamation mark. One of the labels states “Official sources called this election differently.” Another label says “Official sources may not have called the race when this was tweeted.”

Twitter said that it will consider a result official if it’s announced by a state official or the calls are made by at least two of seven national news outlets. Those outlets include ABC, the Associated Press, CBS, CNN, Fox News, NBC News or Decision Desk HQ.

Facebook’s labels will appear in black print below posts that include premature victory claims. “Votes are being counted. The winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election has not been projected. See Election updates,” the label on Facebook will read. A similar label on Facebook-owned Instagram will say “Votes are being counted. The winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election has not been projected.”

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Facebook will warn users if a post contains a premature claim of victory before the election results are tallied. 


Facebook

Facebook said it will rely on the National Election Pool/Edison via Reuters, the Associated Press and six “independent decision desks at major media outlets to determine when a presidential winner is projected.”

The labels look similar to notices that users see for other types of misinformation, including statements about the coronavirus. It’s also unclear how well these labels work. Social networks have struggled to correctly label misinformation. They also face allegations from conservatives that they’re trying to swing the election. Facebook and Twitter have repeatedly denied these claims. 

A study released this year by MIT found that labeling false news could result in users believing stories that hadn’t gotten labels even if they contained misinformation. The MIT researchers call this unintended consequence the “implied truth effect.”

See also: Election night 2020: How to watch the presidential election returns tomorrow


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