Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has made the 2020 US election his top priority. He regularly met with an election team, which included more than 300 members of his company, to prevent the spread of false information on social networks. He sought the advice of civil rights leaders on maintaining the rights of voters.
Facebook’s core selection team, dubbed Meta last year, has since disbanded. About 60 people are now focusing primarily on the election, while others have devoted their time to other projects. He meets with another executive, not Mr. Zuckerberg. And the chief executive has not spoken to civil rights groups recently, with some even asking them to pay more attention to the November midterm elections.
Four META employees say securing the election is no longer Zuckerberg’s first concern. Instead, it is focusing on transforming its company into a deeper provider of Metawors, which they see as the next frontier of growth, people said, who did not have the authority to speak publicly.
The shift in emphasis on meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, could have far-reaching consequences as trust in the US electoral system reaches a tipping point. Capital riot hearings on January 6 have indicated how uncertain the election may be. And with dozens of political candidates running for office this November on the false premise that former President Donald J. Trump was ousted in the 2020 election, social media platforms continue to be a major means of reaching American voters.
There is a lot of misinformation online. According to a New York Times analysis, this month, “2000 Mules”, a film falsely claiming that the 2020 election was stolen from Mr. Trump, was widely shared on Facebook and Instagram. Which received more than 430,000 interactions. In posts about the film, commentators said they expect election rigging this year and warned against the use of mail-in voting and electronic voting machines.
Other social media companies have also withdrawn some of their attention from the election. Twitter, which stopped labeling and removing election misinformation in March 2021, is selling its ون 44 billion to Elon Musk, three employees familiar with the situation said. Mr Musk suggested he wanted less rules about what could and could not be posted on the service.
“Companies should step up their efforts to protect the integrity of elections for the next few years, not retreat,” said Katie Harbath, chief executive of consulting firm Anchor Change. Managed election policy in Meta. “Many issues remain, including allegations of fraud by candidates in the 2020 election, and we do not know how they are dealing with them.”
Meta, who blocked Mr. Trump from his platforms along with Twitter following the January 6, 2021 U.S. Capital riots, has worked for years to limit political lies on his sites. ۔ Meta spokesman Tom Reynolds said the company has “taken a holistic approach to holding elections on our platforms through dozens of global elections before and after the 2020 US election.”
According to Mr Reynolds, there are hundreds of people from more than 40 teams in the meta focused on election work. With each election, he said, the company is “building teams and technologies and working to eliminate fraud, limit the spread of misinformation and maintain industry-leading transparency around political advertising and pages.” Is developing partnerships. “
Twitter spokesman Trenton Kennedy said the company was “continuing its efforts to protect the integrity of the electoral process and to make the public aware of its position.” For the midterm elections, Twitter has labeled the accounts of political candidates and provided information boxes about voting in local elections.
Given the global nature of the Meta and Twitter platforms, the implications of how elections are conducted are outside the United States. In Brazil, which is holding general elections in October, President Jair Bolsonaro has recently expressed skepticism about the country’s electoral process. Latvia, Bosnia and Slovenia are also holding elections in October.
Topics of the January 6 House Committee hearings
Sehar Masachi, executive director of the Think Tank Integrity Institute and a former Facebook employee, said: Comes. ” “And no matter how bad it is here, think about how bad it is everywhere.”
Facebook’s role in potentially distorting the election became clear after 2016, when Russian operatives used the site to spread provocative content and divide American voters in the US presidential election. In 2018, Mr. Zuckerberg testified before Congress that electoral security was his number one priority.
“The most important thing I think right now is to make sure that no one around the world interferes in the 2018 elections,” he said.
Electoral experts say the social network has since become effective in countering foreign attempts to spread misinformation in the United States. But Facebook and Instagram are still struggling with conspiracy theories and other political lies on their sites.
In November 2019, Mr. Zuckerberg hosted a dinner for civil rights leaders at his home and made phone and zoom conference calls with them, promising to focus on electoral integrity.
He also met regularly with an election team. More than 300 employees from various product and engineering teams were asked to create new systems to detect and remove misinformation. Facebook has also taken aggressive steps to eliminate toxic content, banning QAnon conspiracy theory posts and groups in October 2020.
At the same time, Mr. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $ 400 million to local governments to fund polling workers, pay polling station rent, provide personal protective equipment, and other administrative expenses.
One week before the November 2020 election, Meta also froze all political advertisements to limit the spread of lies.
But when the success came – the company kept foreign election interference off the platform – it struggled to handle Mr. Trump, who used his Facebook account to spread false allegations of voter fraud. ۔ Following the January 6 riots, Facebook stopped posting Mr. Trump. He is eligible for rehabilitation in January 2023.
Last year, Francis Hogan, a Facebook employee whistleblower, filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that the company had removed election security features immediately after the 2020 election. He said that Facebook prioritized development and engagement over security.
In October, Mr. Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would focus on Metavers. The company has reorganized with more resources dedicated to developing the online world.
Meta also tolled his selection team again. According to employees, the number of employees now focused on elections alone is about 60, down from 300 in 2020. Hundreds of others attend and participate in election meetings. Cross-functional teams, where they work on other issues. The divisions that make up virtual reality software, a key component of Metavers, have spread.
Four employees said Mr. Zuckerberg no longer meets weekly with those focused on election security. Instead, he meets with Nick Clegg, president of Meta World Affairs.
Several civil rights groups say they have seen a change in Meta priorities. He said Mr Zuckerberg was not in talks with him as he had been before, nor were other senior meta executives.
“I’m concerned,” said Derek Johnson, president of NAACP, who spoke with Mr. Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of META, ahead of the 2020 election. “It seems out of sight, out of mind.” (Ms. Sandberg has announced that she will be leaving Meta this fall.)
Rashad Robinson, president of Keller of Change, another civil rights group, said Ms Sandberg and Mr Zuckerberg had asked their organization for recommendations on how to thwart election fraud in 2020. He said his suggestions were largely ignored and he had not spoken to any of the executives for more than a year. He is currently in talks with Roy Austin, Meta’s vice president for civil rights.
Meta said Mr. Austin meets with civil rights leaders every quarter, adding that it is the only major social media company with an executive in charge of civil rights.
In May, 130 civil rights organizations, progressive think tanks and public interest groups wrote letters to Mr. Zuckerberg and the chief executives of YouTube, Twitter, Snap and other platforms. He called on Mr. Trump to remove posts about Mr. Trump’s winning election in the 2020 election and to slow down the spread of electoral misinformation before the midterm elections.
The companies did not respond, said Joseph Gatachev, director of the Commonwealth, a non-profit public advocacy group whose group studied misinformation about the 2020 election on social media.
Referring to recent tweets from politicians, he said, “The big lie is the front and center in the medium term, with many candidates using it to announce in advance that the 2022 election will be rigged. . ” Michigan And Arizona Those who lied that dead people vote for Democrats. “Now is not the time to stop enforcing big lies.”