How Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are handling election misinformation

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Posted: Nov 5, 2020 5:41 AM
Updated: Nov 5, 2020 5:41 AM

In the months leading up to the election, major social platforms issued seemingly endless updates on how they would address election-related misinformation on their platforms.

Now that the election is underway, there have been major differences in the major tech platforms' approaches to moderating misinformation and impacting its spread.

Twitter has been the most aggressive in labeling and addressing false and misleading content while Facebook and YouTube have applied a lighter touch.

The three platforms have taken varying approaches. Twitter has gone as far as reducing users' ability to share misleading posts, while Facebook is slapping labels on misinformation, but not hindering sharing. YouTube is taking arguably the least aggressive action, by relying on a single label -- which reminds people that US election results may not be final -- on any and all content related to the election.

Twitter has been labeling and restricting how tweets can be shared, including several from President Trump. For example, Twitter placed a label on a tweet from the President in which he baselessly claimed "We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election."

"Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about how to participate in an election or another civic process," the label on that Trump tweet read.

Twitter has also restricted how such tweets can be shared, including removing replies and likes, and only allowing users to quote tweet -- which allows users to share a tweet with their own comments attached -- rather than retweet. (Twitter is also applying other labels to tweets that, by its standards, are prematurely calling election results for either candidate. One of its labels reads: "Official sources may not have called the race when this was Tweeted.")

On the exact same post from Trump on its platform, Facebook used vague language in its label and, unlike Twitter, didn't restrict how it can be viewed or shared. Facebook's label reads: "Final results may be different from initial vote counts, as ballot counting will continue for days or weeks." By Wednesday morning it was one of the most highly engaged with posts on Facebook, according to data from Crowdtangle, an analytics company that Facebook itself owns.

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: "Once President Trump began making premature claims of victory, we started running top-of-feed notifications on Facebook and Instagram so that everyone knows votes are still being counted and the winner has not been projected. We also started applying labels to both candidates' posts automatically with this information."

Facebook also labeled a Tuesday night post from Donald Trump in which he said, "I will be making a statement tonight. A big WIN!"

Facebook's label cautioned: "Votes are still being counted. The winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election has not been projected."

Late Wednesday afternoon, Facebook said it's expanding its premature declaration of victory labels to apply to people beyond the presidential candidates, including at the state level. This will apply to Instagram as well, which it owns.

Jennifer Grygiel, a social media professor at Syracuse University's Newhouse School, criticized the last-minute decision. "That should have been obvious. They should have been prepared to do this sooner," Grygiel said. "[Social platforms] are writing the rules of the road as they go along."

Instagram previously announced it would temporarily hide the "Recent" tab from showing up on all hashtag pages — whether they're related to politics or not. The company said it hopes the move will help prevent the spread of misinformation and harmful content related to the election.

Meanwhile, YouTube has placed an information panel at the top of search results related to the election, as well as below videos that talk about the election. The box says election "results may not be final," and it directs users to parent company Google's feature that tracks election results in real time. It's also taking measures similar to what it has done in past elections, such as promoting content from authoritative news sources in search results.

However it is letting a video containing misinformation about the election stay up on its platform without a fact-check or label noting that it is misinformaton -- exposing the limits of what the social media platforms are doing to counter the spread of potentially dangerous false claims about election results.

In a YouTube video posted by far-right news organization One American News Network on Wednesday, an anchor says "President Trump won four more years in office last night." The video also includes baseless claims that Democrats are "tossing Republican ballots, harvesting fake ballots, and delaying the results to create confusion." The video has been viewed more than 350,000 times. CNBC was the first to report on the video.

While the video -- like others related to the election -- has a label on it saying results may not be final in the US election, YouTube said the video does not violate its rules and would not be removed.

"Our Community Guidelines prohibit content misleading viewers about voting, for example content aiming to mislead voters about the time, place, means or eligibility requirements for voting, or false claims that could materially discourage voting. The content of this video doesn't rise to that level," said Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokesperson.

However, YouTube said it has stopped running ads on the video -- while admitting the video has false information. "We remove ads from videos that contain content that is demonstrably false about election results, like this video," Choi said.

The company said it did remove several livestreams on Election Day that violated its spam, deceptive practices and scams policies.

The OAN anchor in the video shared the YouTube link to her personal Twitter account with the comment, "Trump won. MSM hopes you don't believe your eyes." Twitter said that according to its policy on Civic Integrity, the tweet isn't eligible for a label indicating it might contain a premature call of election results because the original account has fewer than 100,000 followers and the tweet has not hit levels of engagement that would otherwise make it eligible. However, it was retweeted by OAN's official account, which has 1.1 million followers.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319948

Reported Deaths: 7371
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22285267
Hinds20719421
Harrison18431317
Rankin13901282
Jackson13718248
Madison10263224
Lee10059176
Jones8467167
Forrest7832153
Lauderdale7261242
Lowndes6517150
Lamar635188
Lafayette6313121
Washington5425137
Bolivar4841133
Panola4670110
Oktibbeha466198
Pearl River4605147
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425873
Monroe4157135
Union415777
Neshoba4063179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386987
Leflore3515125
Tate342486
Sunflower339491
Pike3371111
Alcorn327272
Scott320374
Yazoo314171
Adams308086
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298784
Simpson298589
Tippah291968
Prentiss284161
Leake272074
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264642
Grenada264087
George252251
Newton248663
Tishomingo231868
Winston230181
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190474
Stone188433
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174132
Yalobusha167840
Smith164134
Walthall135347
Greene131834
Lawrence131124
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127238
Amite126242
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108234
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548657

Reported Deaths: 11306
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810031566
Mobile42105831
Madison35690525
Tuscaloosa26173458
Shelby25607254
Montgomery25081614
Baldwin21868314
Lee16278176
Calhoun14719327
Morgan14629285
Etowah14175364
Marshall12453230
Houston10781287
Elmore10293214
Limestone10179157
St. Clair10162251
Cullman9952201
Lauderdale9603250
DeKalb8972190
Talladega8460184
Walker7338280
Autauga7241113
Blount6945139
Jackson6932113
Colbert6413140
Coffee5635127
Dale4928116
Russell454841
Chilton4476116
Franklin431382
Covington4275122
Tallapoosa4138155
Escambia401680
Chambers3728124
Dallas3607158
Clarke353061
Marion3240107
Pike314378
Lawrence3133100
Winston283472
Bibb268564
Geneva257981
Marengo250565
Pickens236962
Barbour234559
Hale227278
Butler224271
Fayette218862
Henry194543
Randolph187544
Cherokee187345
Monroe180041
Washington170539
Macon163051
Clay160059
Crenshaw155957
Cleburne153444
Lamar146837
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124342
Conecuh113630
Coosa111729
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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