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Big Tech says it’s prepared to crack down on misinformation in election run-up

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With the US presidential elections nearing, social media platforms say they are growing more vigilant to tackle misinformation.

In a House Intelligence Committee Hearing, executives from big tech social media companies have told US lawmakers that they were ramping up efforts to ensure that they keep misinformation at bay.

“Looking ahead to the November election, we are aware that the Covid-19 pandemic, widespread protests and other significant events can provide fodder for nation state-sponsored disinformation campaigns,” said Richard Salgado, the director of law enforcement and information security at Google.

To better prepare for the upcoming US elections, Facebook said that it had studied the conversations across two hundred elections in several countries around the world. The company also said that it took down some ads and posts from President Trump’s campaign.

“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate. Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook.

The committee hearing was also focused on the effects of foreign actors in social media, considering the upcoming elections. “The nature of your platforms, all of them, is to embrace and monetize virality. The more sensational, the more divisive, the more shocking or emotionally charged, the faster it circulates”, said Adam Schiff, the chairman of the committee and a Democrat from California.

The committee hearing also covered disinformation surrounding the pandemic. Google stated that it removed more than 200,000 videos and prevented several advertisers from profiting off of the pandemic. Ironically, Big Tech has massively profited from the pandemic, while small businesses have been decimated.

Gleicher from Facebook added that they have tripled the number of people working in the “safety” department since the 2016 presidential election, now having a total of 35,000.

Nick Pickles, the director of global public policy strategy and development from Twitter, said that the platform has identified a new threat of disinformation in the wake of George Floyd protests.

As election season gets under way, there’s likely going to be further calls for social media platforms to crack down on “misinformation” and be accused of “not doing enough.”

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