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Media & Democracy 01.28.2023

Salon: "Groyper" guru Nick Fuentes returns to Twitter (briefly): Hateful content keeps flowing

Yosef Getachew, a media and democracy program director at Common Cause, said allowing a blatantly bigoted and disruptive user like Fuentes back on Twitter sends a clear signal that the platform is failing to enforce its own policies, he added. "You're creating an environment where users may feel threatened, harassed or attacked, or you could be inciting others to engage in offline violence," Getachew said. "That's essentially how the [Jan. 6] insurrection started, given that millions of users were exposed to harmful content and were asked to organize and mobilize offline to try and overthrow our government. It's the same type of pattern." "There are reports out there that these groups are organizing, that they're harassing individuals, that they're building momentum," Getachew said. "A lot of times, those kinds of things are not taken into account. Platforms are just looking to see what's going on in this particular moment, rather than the bigger picture."

Money & Influence 12.9.2022

Politico: The Crypto Scandal Is Missing a Secret Ingredient

“It’s cross ideological,” says Aaron Scherb, who keeps an eye on Congress for Common Cause, the good-government watchdog group. “All sorts of crypto players throw their money around, to progressive causes, conservative causes.”

Media & Democracy 11.29.2022

HuffPost: Elon Musk Is Rolling Out Twitter's Red Carpet For The Far Right

Emma Steiner, a disinformation analyst at the watchdog group Common Cause, said she knew of new accounts being created on Twitter that were focused on the QAnon conspiracy theory movement, supporters of which call for the mass arrest or execution of public figures they accuse of being satanic pedophiles. Some accounts, Steiner said, are trying to “censorship check” Twitter by seeing what kind of material earns a response from the company ― what she called “a lot of boundary-pushing.” Steiner noted one recent high-stakes test Twitter faced: when Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, tweeted incorrect advice to voters on Election Day. Voters in Maricopa County were experiencing long lines and printer problems in several polling places across the county, which is home to Phoenix and most of the state’s voters. Arizonans can participate at any polling place in a given county — if they’ve signed in to one, they only need to be “checked out” to go to another — but Lake urged voters not to switch polling locations at all. Steiner contacted Twitter, urging the site to append a fact check to Lake’s tweets. Knowledgeable reporters, she noted, had pointed out that Lake was giving false information to her supporters. The tweets could potentially suppress the participation of Lake’s own supporters in the election, a violation of Twitter’s rules. “It was completely inaccurate,” Steiner said. “You just have to talk to a poll worker to be checked out, and then you can go to another location.” Twitter “declined” to act on the false Lake tweet, Steiner said. Since then, Lake has repeatedly cited long lines on Election Day as part of her refusal to concede the election, despite trailing the winner, Democrat Katie Hobbs, by more than 17,000 votes. Twitter’s refusal to address the false information from Lake is part of a pattern: The previous Friday, Common Cause had flagged multiple inaccurate tweets about vote-rigging and election fraud, some from accounts with more than 1 million followers, to Twitter only to hear the day before Election Day ― an unusually long response time ― that Twitter would not take action. “It made us wonder if content moderation was still happening at the platform,” Steiner said. To the extent Musk is following any plan at all, it’s one of opposition to his perceived philosophical enemies, Steiner said. “It does seem to be kind of an ‘owning the libs’ strategy.”

Media & Democracy 11.17.2022

WIRED: Twitter’s Moderation System Is in Tatters

Even when researchers can get through to Twitter, responses are slow—sometimes taking more than a day. Jesse Littlewood, vice president of campaigns at the nonprofit Common Cause, says he’s noticed that when his organization reports tweets that clearly violate Twitter’s policies, those posts are now less likely to get taken down.

Voting & Elections 11.10.2022

Associated Press: Candidates who backed overturning Trump loss are rebuffed

“We’re seeing a bit of a scramble for the right message” among election deniers online, said Emma Steiner, who monitors disinformation for Common Cause. She said concessions from candidates including Dixon in Michigan and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania make “it a little more difficult for election deniers to continue.”

Money & Influence 11.9.2022

New York Times: Elon Musk’s Twitter Did Not Perform at Its Best on Election Day

On Tuesday, misinformation researchers tried to get Twitter’s attention to take down unproven rumors and lies. Yosef Getachew, the media and democracy program director of the pro-democracy advocacy group Common Cause, tweeted that “a few super spreaders have been spreading election disinformation narratives throughout the course of the day” and that “not only have these tweets not been removed but many have gone viral, potentially misleading and confusing voters.”

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