2. TECH AND ELECTIONS
Strongly connected to the issue of fake news is that of the relationship between tech and politics, as well as the role of social media platforms in political elections around the world.
The midterm elections in the U.S. is still very much part of the news cycle, while the European elections are quickly approaching with more than 350 million EU citizens going to the polls in May.
Social media companies have taken steps to improve their policies governing political advertising and misinformation, with a focus on state and non-state actors trying to influence elections around the world.
In September, during an event hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center, Facebook’s global politics and government outreach director Katie Harbath said that while Facebook has taken steps, it’s viewing the 2018 midterms as “a good milestone” before the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
“We’re not going to really be able to know the effect of the changes that we and other platforms are making, honestly, until after 2020,” Harbath was quoted as saying by FCW. “We are barely at the start of this.… This is always going to be a continuous thing for us to try to figure out.”
“As part of our efforts to prevent interference on Facebook during elections, we are in regular contact with law enforcement, outside experts and other companies around the world,” wrote Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy, in a statement. “These partnerships, and our own investigations, have helped us find and remove bad actors from Facebook on many occasions in the last year.”
At Twitter, Senior Public Policy Manager Bridget Coyne explained in a statement that “Over the last several months, we’ve taken significant steps to safeguard the integrity of conversations surrounding the US elections by reducing the spread of disinformation, strengthening outreach to government stakeholders, and streamlining our enforcement processes.”
She added: “We are committed to serving the public conversation about elections on our platform.”
Looking ahead, Google’s Lie Junius, Director of EU Public Policy and Government Relations, explained that in Europe, in preparation of the elections for the renewal of the EU Parliament, “To support this democratic process, we’re rolling out products and programs to help people get the information they need to cast their votes.”
Google’s efforts include getting voters the information they need to navigate the electoral process; helping voters better understand the political advertising they see with more transparent ads; and protecting election information online.
A look at Snap, the company behind the popular social media service Snapchat, showed great results following the platform’s voter registration and participation efforts in US.
For the midterms, Snapchat added polling locations to its Snap Map, a feature within its app that shows events happening all around the world in real-time.
This was part of a greater push to get Snap users civically-engaged ahead of this year’s midterm elections. More than 400,000 users, mainly between 18 to 24, register to vote using the app thanks to a partnership with Turbo Vote.