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How Big Tech is planning for election night

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SAN FRANCISCO - This Election Day, tech companies are preparing for the worst.

Whether it's a candidate prematurely attempting to declare victory or regular users threatening violence, each company has been piecing together policies to prevent confusion on Election Day and after. In addition to staffing up teams to monitor posts starting Tuesday, the companies have also put together plans to address some worst-case scenarios.

One of the biggest concerns misinformation experts say they have is President Donald Trump or other candidates in federal, state or local races incorrectly declaring they have won an election when officials either haven't declared a winner or have called the race for their opponent. The pandemic means a record number of people voted by mail, and some state laws don't allow those votes to be counted until after polls close Tuesday. That could mean there's a delay of days or longer before races can be called, creating an opportunity for confusion.

Here's what each company has said they are planning.

- Twitter 

Election results: Twitter, a favorite of obsessive news followers and Trump, will have an "Election Hub" on top of most U.S. users' home timelines starting Tuesday. It isn't an elaborate results page with a map like you'll find on Google or Facebook, but the hub will show tweets and information from reliable news sources. The company will consider a race called when a result is confirmed by a state's election officials or two of these news sources: ABC, the Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Decision Desk HQ, FoxNews or NBC News.

Prematurely declaring victory: If a candidate tries to claim they have won a race before Twitter's system has confirmed it, or if a candidate claims they won a race the official sources say they lost, Twitter will add a label that hides the original tweet. It will warn that the information is inaccurate or that the race has been called differently. If someone tries to retweet it anyway, they'll be greeted with yet another warning with a link to learn more but will still be able to share it. The label will also apply to similar tweets if they're going viral or if they come from U.S. accounts with more than 100,000 followers, including news outlets and journalists.

Misinformation or calls for violence: Other types of misinformation will also get labels, including tweets that encourage violence or qualify as voter intimidation. The site has started showing two warnings to all users ahead of the election, on top of the feed and in relevant searches. One says there may be misleading information about voting by mail, and the other warns there could be a delay getting final election results. Both link to pages with more information.

It is also adding features to try to slow the spread of viral posts, including asking people to add a comment to any retweets before sharing and adding more information to trending topics. These will be in place at least through the end of the week.

- Facebook and Instagram 

Election results: Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram will have election information centers on the tops of their apps and web pages to show results when they're confirmed and warnings before that. The services will show a notification when the polls first close that says, "Votes are still being counted," or "Too early to call" until their chosen sources, Reuters and the National Election Pool, call a race. The company says that for the presidential race, it will need a consensus from those sources and six major media publications with their own "decision desks."

Prematurely declaring victory: If a candidate or related group, like a political party, tries to declare victory before that time, Facebook will not remove their posts. Instead, it will add a warning label below their post that says votes are still being counted and link to its information center.

Misinformation or calls for violence: Facebook is using a system to flag posts that could go viral to check them and slow misinformation from spreading. It will also stop running political ads but not until after polls have closed. To try to control the spread of misinformation and address other potential issues, the company has an Election Operations Center for rapid responses.

- Google search 

Election results: Google is known for showing its own versions of search results, and election results are no different. It will display an in-depth information panel above relevant search results, which will relay election information from the AP. It will include a U.S. map and the ability to view results for state races and ballot measures.

Misinformation and premature declarations of victory: Google will not be taking additional measures on any organic search results that might include misinformation, such as prematurely declaring victory for one candidate, relying instead on its existing system for surfacing reliable results.

The company will take a much more proactive approach to information in its ads. It will ban all ads related to the U.S. election after polls close Nov. 3, and it expects the ban to last at least a week. The ad rule is part of the company's "sensitive events" policy and will cover any ad that mentions a candidate, a political party or an election, among other election-related content.

- Google News 

Election results: Unlike Google Search, the company's news page will not show election results or have its own election information box. Google News does have a topic page for the 2020 election that just displays election-related news stories.

Misinformation and premature declarations of victory: Like Google Search, it will not take any additional steps against news stories that prematurely call the election, such as labeling or removing them. Instead, like Google's organic search results, the company will rely on its existing algorithms for showing more authoritative sources.

- YouTube 

Election results: YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, will not add an information panel on its home page, but it will show one that includes election results from AP when searching for election-related terms. It will also appear under election-related videos and link back to the main Google election page.

Misinformation and premature declarations of victory: Starting Tuesday, all election videos on YouTube will get a label saying election results may not be final, which will link to Google's main results page. That includes content about a candidate prematurely declaring they won an election, according to the company.

More than a quarter of adults get news on YouTube, according to a Pew Research Center study, though results often include videos from "independent" channels not linked to an established news organization. To minimize disinformation, the site prioritizes results from official news outlets and organizations in searches and recommendations for important topics such as voting by mail. It will not show any political ads after polls close and says it will enforce its community guidelines regardless of who violates them.

- Apple News

Election results: Apple News will have an election hub starting Tuesday. It is working with news and polling analysis site FiveThirtyEight on content and will use AP as its official source for election results.

Misinformation and premature declarations of victory: The company says it uses human editors to do things such as manage the results page and choose the top five stories shown in the News app, which can prevent misinformation from being automatically surfaced. If any of its publishing partners do publish misinformation, Apple News can limit their visibility but does not typically remove stories from the app. That includes stories that prematurely declare winners in any state or federal races.

- TikTok 

Election results: TikTok will have a special election information page, but it won't be pinned to the top of the app for everyone to see. Instead, it only will show up under any election-related content or on top of relevant searches. On Election Day, the page will include a map and real-time election results from the AP.

Misinformation and premature declarations of victory: Any disinformation confirmed to be false by its fact-checking partners will be removed, and any premature claims of victory will be made harder to find. TikTok does not allow political advertising.

- Snapchat

Election results: Snapchat will not have a special center or hub to show election results.

Misinformation and premature declarations of victory: The messaging app is not a place where content typically goes viral. Its discover page, which includes content only from partners such as news organizations and approved public figures, will not allow posts that include election misinformation or share, without context, news of a premature declaration of victory.


Published : November 03, 2020

By : The Washington Post · Heather Kelly · TECHNOLOGY