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Twitter, social platforms could see spike in election misinformation

By Sheila Dang

(Reuters) – Election misinformation is spreading across social media platforms like Twitter and Meta Platform’s Facebook, as the vote count for the U.S. midterm elections continued on Wednesday in key battleground states, experts said.

Online misinformation experts have worked to push back on misleading narratives that spread in the run-up to the election, including that only the results announced on Tuesday night were legitimate.

“We have seen and will continue to see bad actors … push the narrative that only election night results are valid,” said Emma Steiner, a disinformation analyst at nonprofit group Common Cause, during a press briefing on Wednesday.

As key battleground states like Arizona continue to tabulate results, “we could see a spike in disinformation about the count,” she said.

The proliferation of such content raises questions of how social media platforms are enforcing their policies against misleading content about elections.

Common Cause, which monitors social media for voter suppression efforts, said on Tuesday that Twitter had taken no action on posts that the organization had flagged as problematic.

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Twitter, which is now owned by billionaire Elon Musk, laid off roughly half its staff last week, including many employees responsible for curating and elevating credible information on the service.

The company, which has lost many members of its communications team, did not immediately respond to request for comment. Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some online posts also circulated videos without context and wove it into narratives aimed at questioning the legitimacy of the election, Steiner said.

A widely circulated video of a poll worker marking required initials on ballots in Wisconsin was incorrectly interpreted as a poll worker in Philadelphia filling out ballots, and gained traction on Twitter and TikTok, she said.

In the battleground state of Arizona, problems with dozens of electronic vote-counting machines on Tuesday were also seized upon by former U.S. President Donald Trump and his followers, who falsely claimed on social media and elsewhere that it was evidence of election fraud by Democrats.


(Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; additional reporting by Helen Coster; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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