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WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, a coalition of more than 200 civil-society organizations, researchers and journalists sent a letter to the top executives of the leading social-media platforms that calls on them to strengthen platform-integrity efforts to protect democratic elections worldwide in 2024.

The letter, which was sent to top executives at Discord, Google, Instagram, Meta, Pinterest, Reddit, Rumble, Snap, TikTok, Twitch, Twitter and YouTube, urges these companies to make six distinct interventions to keep online platforms safe and healthy in 2024.

These include investing in greater platform accountability by reinstating election-integrity policies and staffing up critical trust and safety teams to better enforce policies across languages. The letter also calls on platforms to improve transparency by enabling civil-society oversight of their enforcement practices, and to require clear disclosure of AI-generated political content while prohibiting the use of deepfakes in political ads. (Read the full list of interventions and letter signers here.) The coalition asks that companies provide substantive responses to the letter by April 22, 2024.

At least 60 countries are conducting national elections this year amid evidence of rising authoritarianism around the globe. At the same time, leading platforms have abandoned their commitments to protect users from the scourge of election-related disinformation that is spreading worldwide. In December, Free Press released Big Tech Backslide: How Social-Media Rollbacks Endanger Democracy Ahead of the 2024 Elections, a report documenting how platforms have retreated from democratic accountability by rolling back essential policies, instituting layoffs and reinstating thousands of dangerous and extremist accounts.

“The tech industry’s refusal to safeguard their platforms is already having a dangerous impact on democracies around the world,” said Free Press Senior Counsel and Director of Digital Justice and Civil Rights Nora Benavidez. “Today, hundreds of civil-society groups are putting these companies on notice: Failure to uphold and enforce sound election-integrity policies and expand non-English staffing to monitor disinformation, political deepfakes and other harmful content will be catastrophic to free and fair elections worldwide.”

“If you don’t have integrity of facts, you cannot have integrity of elections,” said Maria Ressa, Nobel Laureate CEO of Rappler and founding member of the Real Facebook Oversight Board. “This is a critical moment to redesign your surveillance-for-profit model that has been hijacked by authoritarians around the world. Protect our public-information ecosystem by returning agency back to voters around the world during this crucial year.”

“In recent decades, it has become clear that democracy, far from being an inevitable conclusion of social progress, is locked in a constant battle with authoritarianism, and that one of its weak points remains the way in which social media twists, distorts and decontextualizes information to create confusion, contention, division, hate, lies and polarization,” said CEO and founder of the Center for Countering Digital Hate Imran Ahmed. “Civil wars used to be a thing we read about in history books, but now the possibility lurks in our waking thoughts. Social-media platforms have profited enormously by privatizing and monetizing the means by which we discover, debate and decide as a society, and they have a moral responsibility to ensure those information flows aren’t toxified by foreign state actors, hate preachers, bot networks and sly propagandists. It is time we demanded higher standards of transparency, accountability and responsibility from these platforms to protect democracy and the values that underpin democracy.”

“It’s essential that platforms step up to protect democracy this election cycle, and that includes clearly labeling advertising,” said Check My Ads Director of Policy and Partnerships Sarah Kay Wiley. “Propagandists and bad actors looking to manipulate public opinion have access to sensitive data about citizens and the unrestricted ability to spread lies around the world in seconds. Citizens have a right to know how their data is being used against them, and platforms must do more to safeguard information integrity during an election year.”


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