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How Social Media Sites Have Amplified False Claims of U.S. Election Fraud

NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights: “As the 2022 midterms approach, falsehoods about election fraud continue to spread via social media. The Big Lie that Joseph Biden did not legitimately win the presidency in 2020 has mutated into a forward-looking belief among many Republicans that American democracy more generally no longer functions fairly. In the minds of the most ardent believers, political opponents — Democrats — must be stopped by any means necessary, including the sort of violence unleashed at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Social media companies have promised to protect the upcoming midterm elections from mis- and disinformation, but their flawed policies and inconsistent enforcement result in the continued amplification of election denialism, especially in key battleground states, like Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The consequences of election denialism spreading online are grave. If even a handful of Republican deniers are elected this year to state offices that oversee presidential elections — such as governor and secretary of state — the 2024 process could descend into chaos and violence, making the events of 2020 – 2021 seem tame by comparison.

Our report – Spreading The Big Lie: How Social Media Sites Have Amplified False Claims of U.S. Election Fraud – diagnoses the industry’s shortcomings and makes practical recommendations for reform. Our recommendations include providing greater transparency about how social media platforms rank, recommend, and remove content and how their automated systems interact with human content moderation; subjecting themselves to independent outside audits to check whether platforms are weighing the intended benefits of their services against potential risks to users and society at large; and enhancing fact-checking programs designed to identify demonstrably false content that needs to be removed or labeled and down-ranked…”

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