Twitter announced an expanded effort to combat misinformation ahead of the US election – with at least a few hair-raising lines that will bring November operations into sharp relief.
The company is creating a game plan for what happens if the 2020 election results are unclear or controversial. A handful of reformulated guidelines are due to take effect next week on September 17th.
Twitter is now planning to remove all claims to victory or put a warning sign on them before the election results are official. The policy amendment specifically mentions that tweets will take steps to “encourage unlawful conduct to prevent peaceful transfer of power or orderly succession”
“We will not allow our service to be abused in connection with civil processes, especially elections,” wrote the Twitter security team. “Any attempt to do this – both domestically and domestically – will be accompanied by strict enforcement of our rules, which will be applied equally and sensibly to all.”
Many critics of President Trump have voiced concerns that if he loses in November, he might refuse to step down, as have the president’s former close allies. At a House Oversight Committee hearing last year, Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen voiced early concerns about this possible outcome.
“Given my experience with President Trump, I fear that if he loses the 2020 elections, there will never be a peaceful change of power,” Cohen said.
At a rally last month, Trump said that after winning another four years in office, he will “stay another four years because they spied on my campaign” and said he should have a “repeat”. While his supporters might read the statement as a joke, Trump’s critics see a president re-examining the waters with an outrageous and undemocratic claim.
Twitter also said it will remove tweets or add a label that contains false or misleading information about laws pertaining to citizen processes and the officials and institutions overseeing them. This rule could cover a wide variety of voting-related misinformation, including false claims about who can vote and what documents, if any, they may need to provide.
The company will also respond to any “controversial claims” that could cast doubt on the vote, including “unverified information about election fraud, election rigging, voting results or confirmation of election results”.
Social networks are very aware of the looming threat to democracy in the November elections, even if they are seldom able or willing to name them. Playing out possible nightmare scenarios is a worthwhile exercise for Twitter and other platforms as they prepare for a deluge of misinformation from users, foreign campaigns and political figures in November.