After Election, Cautious Optimism That Few False Narratives Took Hold

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YouTube committed $15 million to hire more than 100 content moderators to help with the U.S. midterm and Brazilian elections, on top of more than 10,000 existing moderators. The company also said it had adjusted its recommendation algorithm to not suggest political content from unverified sources to other viewers, and had established a war room to remove videos and livestreams in real time on Election Day.

Media Matters, an advocacy organization, found that YouTube channels continued to peddle claims of voter tabulation irregularities in Spanish in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Arizona. Some of those videos direct viewers to other platforms, where they can share additional commentary or conspiracy theories. While the platform banned conspiracy theories claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, it did not undertake a similar measure this year.

Meta, which announced job cuts the day after the vote, had reduced teams working on the elections in the months leading up to them. The company said it was committed to taking many of the precautions it put in place before the 2020 presidential elections, including temporarily suspending all “political, electoral and social issue” ads from its platforms.

Meta, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, also removed posts that promoted voter suppression, and rejected ads that discouraged people from voting.

With several races still undecided, false or misleading information continued to appear on major platforms on Wednesday, including questions about the pace of tabulating votes in Nevada, where the Senate race could decide which party controls the body.

On alternative platforms, including some associated with political extremism and violence, there was no sign of moderation at all.

“There is a lot of anger and noise on the mainstream platforms like Twitter and Facebook, but the most aggressive statements on the day of the midterms, including calls to violence, are found on the alt platforms including Gab, Parler and Telegram,” said Alex Stamos, the director of the Stanford Internet Observatory, which tracked election disinformation online as part of the Elections Integrity Partnership.