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WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Free Press released Democracy Deferred: Social-Media Companies’ Meager Commitments to Election Integrity in 2024, an analysis of 12 major technology companies’ readiness to address political disinformation, manipulation and hate on their networks. The analysis is based on the companies’ responses to six specific recommendations from a global coalition of more than 200 civil-society organizations.

Earlier this month, the coalition sent a letter to executives of the technology platforms, giving them until April 22 to respond. The coalition asked the platforms to indicate whether they would adopt or reject the six recommendations and commit to protecting election integrity in 2024. The recommendations include reinstating election-integrity policies, better enforcing policies across languages and staffing up critical trust and safety teams. The letter also calls on platforms to enable civil-society oversight of their enforcement practices, require clear disclosure of AI-generated political content and prohibit the use of deepfakes in political ads.

Democracy Deferred reveals the companies’ full responses to the coalition letter and scores each platform’s preparedness to address the scourge of disinformation and hate that plagues social media during election years. Eight of the 12 tech companies responded, including Meta and Instagram (through a Meta representative), Google and YouTube (through a Google representative), Pinterest, Reddit, Snap and TikTok. Discord, Rumble, Twitch and X failed to respond. “This [failure to respond] shows utter disrespect to the more than 200 civil-society organizations, researchers and journalists that signed the letter, as well as a shocking disregard for the precarious state of global democracy this year,” reads the analysis.

The analysis scores the companies’ responses along four categories: “Adequate,” “Partial,” “Insufficient” and “Fail.” No companies’ response was rated as adequate. Free Press rated the responses of only three — Reddit, Snapchat and TikTok — as partial and the responses of four — Google, Meta, Pinterest and YouTube — as insufficient. And the four companies that failed to send substantive responses, if any at all — Discord, Rumble, Twitch and Twitter — rated as fail.

“Taken together, the responses from the platforms are wholly insufficient and demonstrate a lack of seriousness across the industry about the precarious state of elections around the globe,” reads the report. “[They] also fail to acknowledge the companies’ respective roles in destabilizing democracy.”

Free Press Senior Counsel and Director of Digital Justice and Civil Rights Nora Benavidez said:

“There's little doubt that technology platforms are playing a critical role in elections around the globe. Their ongoing failure to stem the tide of election-related disinformation should alarm anyone who believes that healthy democracies and democratic institutions are vital at a time when authoritarianism is spreading worldwide. But do we know whether they’re planning to improve efforts and more to protect elections in 2024?

Democracy Deferred exposes how social-media platforms come up short in their plans to protect users and stem eroding trust in democratic institutions. The responses from platforms range from nonexistent to vague — leaving the public and election integrity hanging. None of the platforms commit to moderating Big Lie misinformation. None commit to beefing up the numbers of staff necessary to review content. And these platforms have a narrowing timeframe in which to do better.

“It’s sobering that our diverse global coalition of journalists, researchers, activists and organizations merits but a page or two of response from these platforms. That reflects very poorly on the executives and the culture within these companies. Our analysis calls on others — including media outlets, investors, advertisers, app stores and trust-and-safety-team members inside these companies — to pressure platforms to do more for democracy during a year when the world will see more than 60 elections. The coalition will lead efforts to ensure that these massive corporations aren’t given a pass for failing to honor and safeguard civic participation.

“In this decisive election year, platforms must stop giving anti-democratic extremists the tools to manipulate and misinform millions of voters. Democracy Deferred not only exposes the shortcomings of companies like Google, Meta, YouTube and X, it sets forth a roadmap to do better to protect voters, platform users and democracies everywhere.”

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