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WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Oct. 27, Free Press released Empty Promises: Inside Big Tech’s Weak Effort to Fight Hate and Lies in 2022, a report revealing the ongoing failures of Meta, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube to curb the spread of election disinformation and extremism across their networks. A briefing will be held at noon today to discuss this report as well as new analysis from the Real Facebook Oversight Board and other groups (more details appear below). 

During the call, Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González will share more about the organization’s efforts to pressure the largest social-media companies to fully roll out needed safeguards ahead of the upcoming elections. In Empty Promises, Free Press reviewed the policies of the four major social-media platforms to consider how prepared, both in writing and practice, the companies are for the upcoming elections. The report finds that the problem is just as dire in advance of the 2022 U.S. midterms as it was during the nation’s 2020 elections. In particular, the major platforms have:

  • Failed to clearly update their election-integrity systems in time for the elections;
  • Created a labyrinth of company commitments, announcements and policies that make it difficult to assess what they’re really doing, if anything, to protect users; and 
  • Failed to close what they call “newsworthiness” or “public interest” exceptions that give prominent users and politicians a “get out of jail free” card and allow them to post lies without consequences from the platforms.

According to the report, the results of these failures will likely be felt in the polling booth during the Nov. 8 midterm elections, but also on the streets, where — as we saw on Jan. 6, 2021 — disinformation about election results can lead to real-world violence.

“The unchecked spread of online lies about the 2020 election fueled real-world violence on January 6,” said Nora Benavidez, the author of Empty Promises and senior counsel and director of digital justice and civil rights at Free Press. “And although most people in the United States now believe that Big Tech should do more to curb the online spread of disinformation and incitements to violence, social-media companies keep failing to protect users.

“In the report, we examine what companies commit to do vis-a-vis election integrity and then we analyze how they’re performing against those policies. Even in writing, platforms like Meta, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube can’t commit to the most basic online protections to limit the spread of disinformation and hate. And in practice, our research shows ongoing gaps in companies’ enforcement of their own meager safety policies. These are systemic failures across all of the major social-media companies that show how little the companies care about safeguarding elections and fighting extremism and lies on their platforms.”

Also on today’s call, members of the Real Facebook Oversight Board will release the group’s quarterly harms report, which features new data on Meta’s embrace of right-wing extremists and conservative content. 

Please join the call today: 

What: Real Facebook Oversight Board and Free Press Emergency Session 
Date:  Thurs., Oct. 27, at noon EST 
Who: Jessica J. González, co-CEO at Free Press; Heidi Beirich, co-founder and chief strategy officer at the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism; Yosef Getachew, media and democracy program director at Common Cause; and Steven Renderos, executive director of MediaJustice

Join the call here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_HtJhxIrCA

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