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Columbia Journalism Review: The social-media platforms, the “Big Lie,” and the coming elections

“The ‘big lie’ has become embedded in our political discourse, and it’s become a talking point for election-deniers to preemptively declare that the midterm elections are going to be stolen or filled with voter fraud,” Yosef Getachew, a media and democracy program director at Common Cause, a government watchdog, told the Post in August. “What we’ve seen is that Facebook and Twitter aren’t really doing the best job, or any job, in terms of removing and combating disinformation that’s around the ‘big lie.’”

Reuters: Twitter plan to fight midterm misinformation falls short, voting rights experts say

More emphasis should be placed on removing false and misleading posts, said Yosef Getachew, media and democracy program director at nonpartisan group Common Cause. “Pointing them to other sources isn’t enough,” he said.

Voting & Elections 08.1.2022

PolitiFact/Poynter: How will social media platforms respond to election misinformation? It isn’t clear

This decision may have consequences for voters in 2022, said Yosef Getachew, media and democracy program director at Common Cause, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group. (Common Cause supports PolitiFact's Spanish fact-checking in 2022.) Many people still believe the 2020 election was stolen, and candidates have been sharing that message. "By not combating this, they're helping fuel the narrative that this big lie was accurate, when it's not," said Getachew. Emma Steiner, a disinformation researcher at Common Cause, said she still sees unmarked tweets falsely claiming that mail ballot drop boxes aren’t safe. (Drop boxes are secure boxes, often placed outside polling sites or government buildings, into which voters can drop completed ballots received by mail. The boxes often have more security features than standard mailboxes and have been used in some jurisdictions for decades).  Platforms don’t share data proactively, Steiner said, so it’s hard to gauge exactly how many posts with election-related falsehoods get sent around. It took PolitiFact about 30 seconds in the Twitter search tool — trying terms like "ballot mules" and "dead voters" — to find multiple false claims about elections.

Media & Democracy 07.19.2022

Broadcasting & Cable: Bipartisan Privacy Bill Would Limit Targeted Advertising

“We are glad to see that the American Data Privacy and Protection Act is going to a full committee markup, and that Republican and Democratic leadership on the House Energy & Commerce Committee has come together on a comprehensive privacy proposal to protect our data online," Common Cause media and democracy program director Yosef Getachew said. Watchdog group Common Cause is particularly heartened by the inclusion of civil-rights protections, given that privacy and data abuses have hit minority communities particularly hard, the organization said.

Media & Democracy 07.1.2022

Cox Media Group/KIRO: Some federal lawmakers worried about voter disinformation ahead of midterms

Members of the nonpartisan organization Common Cause say they’ve tracked an increase in disinformation online in 2016 and 2018 with a significant surge in voting related disinformation during the 2020 election cycle. “Disinformation agents are seeking to keep voters from casting their ballots by spreading content designed to confuse voters about the time, place and manner how to vote, intimidate or harass them from going to the polls,” said Yosef Getachew, Media & Democracy Program Director at Common Cause.

Media & Democracy 06.23.2022

Bloomberg: Meta Pulls Support for Tool Used to Keep Misinformation in Check

On May 17, as several states held their primary elections, Jesse Littlewood searched the internet using a tool called CrowdTangle to spot the false narratives he knew could change perceptions of the results: damaging stories about ballots being collected and dropped off in bulk by unauthorized people, who the misinformation peddlers called “ballot mules.” Littlewood, the vice president for campaigns with the voter advocacy group Common Cause, easily came across dozens of posts showing a “Wanted” poster falsely accusing a woman of being a ballot mule in Gwinnett County, Georgia. He raised alarm bells with Facebook and Twitter. “This was going to lead to threats and intimidation of this individual who may be an elections worker, and there was no evidence that this person was doing anything illegal,” Littlewood said. “It needed to be removed.” Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook owns the search tool Littlewood used, and the company has for months kept its plans for CrowdTangle a mystery. Meta has been reducing its support for the product. The company is expected to eventually scrap it, and has declined to say when it plans to do so. Not knowing the future of CrowdTangle or what Meta chooses to replace it with, Littlewood said, endangers planning for future elections. The group has thousands of volunteers working in shifts to identify false information online, and CrowdTangle is indispensible to the process. Common Cause’s work “would be impossible to do without a tool that looks across Facebook,” Littlewood said. CrowdTangle gives insight into posts on Instagram, Twitter and Reddit too. “And we all know that the midterms are testing grounds for 2024, when the level of disinformation will be even higher.” Researchers don’t just rely on the tool, but on the companies reacting to the harmful content reports they make. Twitter removed the misinformation Littlewood flagged in May; on Facebook, which didn’t respond to his warning, at least 16 of the posts remained in mid-June. Facebook took them down after media outlets, including ProPublica and Bloomberg News, reached out.

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