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WASHINGTON — Ahead of Elon Musk’s expected $44-billion takeover of Twitter, Free Press released Empty Promises: Inside Big Tech’s Weak Effort to Fight Hate and Lies in 2022. The report, which assesses the performance of Meta, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube in curbing the spread of election disinformation and extremism across their networks, found Twitter is one of the worst offenders. Twitter fails to meet any of Change the Terms coalition’s demands for policy transparency, equal enforcement of content-moderation policies, or more robust content moderation of hate and lies ahead of the 2022 midterms. 

All of the major platforms assessed in Empty Promises failed to clearly update their election-integrity systems in time for the elections and have a tangle of conflicting policies and webpages that give cover to lackluster policy enforcement. And all four companies have loopholes for prominent users and politicians that allow these high-profile figures to spread hate and lies through their sites.

Read the full report here.

Free Press Senior Counsel and Director of Digital Justice and Civil Rights Nora Benavidez, who wrote Empty Promises, said: 

“Meta, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube show little regard for the real-world harms caused by their failure to enforce proper safeguards against hate and lies proliferating on their platforms. We’ve seen their dysfunction on full display as laid bare by the January 6 insurrection and the continued spread of the Big Lie and other conspiracy theories.

“Our report comes as Musk is reportedly planning to lay off most of Twitter’s staff and possibly restore the accounts of prominent political figures who had been banned for spreading this disinformation and inciting violence. To stop Twitter from getting any worse, its new leadership must heed the demands of the Change the Terms coalition. The failures we continue to document are alarming and the blame for the risk online disinformation poses to voters this election must lay squarely at the feet of platform executives who chose profits over people.” 

Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González, who co-founded Change the Terms, said:

“Elon Musk could be the head of Twitter as soon as tomorrow and we must contend with his ill-considered anything-goes stance on content moderation. Musk must abandon his reported plans to dramatically slash staff, including those who work on election integrity and on curbing the spread of hate and lies. Musk is also predicted to gut already-insufficient content-moderation systems that Empty Promises finds inadequate in protecting user safety and democracy. If Musk puts his stated ideas into action, Twitter will surely become a ‘free-for-all hellscape,’ despite the phony assurances he gave advertisers today.

“The only way the platform will remain valuable to its more than 200-million regular users is by scaling up the network’s content moderation, not curtailing it. Twitter has invested too few resources already, even though it has the capital and technology necessary to do the job right. We will continue to assess Twitter’s direction and progress to reduce heinous and harmful content on the site and regularly update the company’s concerned advertisers and users as we hold Twitter accountable to all of our communities.” 

The report grades the companies against the Change the Terms coalition’s 15 demands to protect users ahead of the midterm elections. Meta’s policies fully meet only two demands, TikTok fully meets only one, and Twitter and YouTube have not met any. All four companies fail to close the exemptions they provide to prominent users that allow them to violate stated policies with impunity. TikTok and YouTube fail to report the scale and reach of violative videos before removal. 

Read more at The Washington Post here

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