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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."

Voting & Elections 12.4.2022

Associated Press: As Musk is learning, content moderation is a messy job

Jesse Littlewood, vice president for campaigns at Common Cause, said his group reached out to Twitter last week about a tweet from U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene that alleged election fraud in Arizona. Musk had reinstated Greene’s personal account after she was kicked off Twitter for spreading COVID-19 misinformation. This time, Twitter was quick to respond, telling Common Cause that the tweet didn’t violate any rules and would stay up — even though Twitter requires the labeling or removal of content that spreads false or misleading claims about election results. Twitter gave Littlewood no explanation for why it wasn’t following its own rules. “I find that pretty confounding,” Littlewood said.

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 11.22.2022

Newsweek: Will Trump Staying Off Twitter Doom Him Politically?

While some figures on Twitter continued to share disinformation on the platform around the 2022 midterm election cycle, Jesse Littlewood, vice president of campaigns at the nonpartisan watchdog group Common Cause, told Newsweek that the amount of disinformation about election integrity substantially decreased after Trump left the platform, falling below levels seen in the 2018 midterms, according to a survey by online monitoring platform Zignal Labs published in the Washington Post. ... Trump, Littlewood said, was a thought leader for a movement, with an unparalleled reach that commanded attention: "When Trump tweeted something, it would be amplified in mainstream news networks," he said.

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 11.16.2022

Austin American-Statesman: Fight goes on over election confusion; 3,000 complaints, most on 'mundane' matters

The bulk of the nearly 3,000 complaints that voters filed this election season with Common Cause Texas, a nonpartisan voter advocacy group, reflected procedural problems. People having difficulty figuring out where to vote, or whether they were eligible, or how they could correct a problem with their mail-in ballot. People not being told what to do with the printed ballot containing their selections. Or people, particularly in Harris County, arriving at a precinct that had run out of the paper used to print ballots. Any problem that interferes with a voter casting a ballot is an important one, of course. But it wasn't lost on Common Cause Texas Executive Director Anthony Gutierrez that most of the problems that voters faced had nothing to do with wild conspiracy theories. "We are short on Republicans who will speak out against the election deniers," Gutierrez said. Still, he wondered about the ability to find GOP figures in Texas who would sign on. Indeed, two-thirds of Texas Republicans still do not believe President Joe Biden was legitimately elected. Election deniers made strong runs for office around the country, and the massive layoffs at Twitter and at Facebook's parent company could allow even more disinformation to pour across social media platforms, potentially triggering political violence. Jesse Littlewood, vice president for campaigns at Common Cause, said many of us are like the proverbial frog in the pot of water, growing acclimated to rising heat instead of sensing the danger. "We are now in a pot of boiling water," he said, "and we haven't realized it."

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