Twitter Makes Changes to Counter Election Manipulation

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

(CN) — Twitter announced fundamental changes to its platform intended to prevent political candidates from making false claims about victories on Election Day. 

Twitter will no longer allow users to simply retweet without adding their own commentary, meaning all users will “quote tweet” the tweets they encounter on their timeline. 

“Though this adds some extra friction for those who simply want to retweet, we hope it will encourage everyone to not only consider why they are amplifying a tweet, but also increase the likelihood that people add their own thoughts, reactions and perspectives to the conversation,” the company said in a blog post Friday. 

But aside from the fundamental changes, the company also announced election-specific protocols that track what other social media platforms are doing. 

For instance, Twitter will not allow anyone, including political candidates, to claim election victories before they have been formally announced by voting offices or by at least two reputable national news outlets. 

“Tweets which include premature claims will be labeled and direct people to our official U.S. election page,” the company said. 

The policy is a clear response to President Donald Trump, who has already set the stage for disputing certain election results by claiming mail-in ballots are subject to fraud — a claim roundly refuted by election experts and without evidence. 

Some election watchers predict Trump and other candidates for office may try to claim victory on election night if they are ahead in races and then attempt to contest the ballots that arrived by mail and which need to be hand-counted by election officials. 

Twitter and others are clearly preparing for the eventuality. 

It has also joined its competitors like Facebook in pledging to remove any posts that discuss a militarized interference with the election.

“Tweets meant to incite interference with the election process or with the implementation of election results, such as through violent action, will be subject to removal,” the company said. “This covers all congressional races and the presidential election.”

During the most recent debate, Trump urged his supporters to go inside polling locations and observe votes being cast. His son Donald Trump Jr. recently posted a video asking for “an army” of Trump supporters to protect the polls. 

Those types of incitements would not be legal on Twitter’s platform under the new rules. 

Twitter will also begin to label tweets that spread misinformation, with a pop-up box that links users to credible information. 

“We currently may label tweets that violate our policies against misleading information about civic integrity, Covid-19, and synthetic and manipulated media,” the company said. “Starting next week, when people attempt to retweet one of these tweets with a misleading information label, they will see a prompt pointing them to credible information about the topic before they are able to amplify it.”

Facebook also announced major changes to its platform Wednesday, vowing to ban all election ads after the polls close on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Google has also pledged to disallow political advertising in the wake of Election Day. 

Social media platforms are on high alert after the fallout from the 2016 presidential election, during which Russian hackers used social media platforms to spread misinformation and sow division. 

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