I just received the following email to the address that Mozilla Firefox has on file for me:
After several days of waiting while votes were counted in close races, the U.S. media networks and Associated Press (AP) projected former Vice President Joe Biden as the winner of the U.S. Presidential contest over the weekend.
The AP has been projecting winners in the U.S. Presidential race since 1848,1 and social media platforms made it clear that they would rely on the AP projection for their fact-checking.
At Mozilla, we’ve been keeping an eye on how the biggest social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube — have been taking action to stop the spread of viral disinformation about the election process and results. So far, the results have been troublingly mixed.
Twitter quickly labeled false claims of victory from both Republican and Democratic leaders in the days following the election. However, after Facebook shut down the ‘Stop the Steal’ group, similar groups emerged and quickly grew.2 On YouTube, disinformation about the election is spreading rapidly and freely. In one instance, YouTube acknowledged that a video falsely claiming Trump won violates its ad policies, but will be allowed to stay up.3
YouTube content is also feeding disinformation across other platforms: A separate YouTube video falsely claiming that Biden’s President-Elect status had been “rescinded” was viewed nearly 900,000 times in just 12 hours — driven largely by shares on Facebook.4
These platforms must continue to work to combat viral disinformation to protect the integrity of the US election as well as future elections around the world. In the coming weeks, our resources will be limited — so we’re hoping you can tell us which actions you think we should continue and prioritize in the coming months, including:
- Hold social media companies to account to make sure they are taking fast, effective action against election-related disinformation campaigns — just like they promised they would before the election. This includes taking action to curb the spread of disinformation about the election results or process. We know this works: because of pressure from Mozilla supporters like you, Facebook changed its groups recommendation policy before the elections.
- Analyze the effectiveness of platform policies in their ability to tackle election-related disinformation. We’ve been tracking the policies that platforms have been implementing to deal with threats to the election, and an analysis will help us understand how well platforms were able to implement those policies — and what interventions will be needed to make things better in future elections globally.
- Help people spot disinformation in order to slow the spread of content that could harm others in our communities, undermine the election results, or discourage vaccine use.
- Support researchers who are studying social media platforms like Facebook in the public interest. It’s critical that independent research, like that from New York University’s Ad Observatory project, can be conducted independently and without interference from powerful tech giants. This research will be vital in helping Mozilla develop its own positions and interventions that will make us all safer.
Could you tell us what you’d like to see Mozilla doing in the post-election period?
- Hold social media companies to account
- Analyze platform policy effectiveness
- Help people spot disinformation
- Support researchers
- All of the above
I know that for many of us, myself included, this has been a very difficult and challenging time. We appreciate everything you have done for the internet this year when we’ve needed it the most, and with your support and feedback, we’ll be able to continue our great work together.
Mozilla isn’t just an organization — Mozilla is a community. And the Mozilla community is one that has shown the strength of diversity, of collaboration and respect in helping to create an internet that elevates critical thinking, reasoned argument, shared knowledge, and verifiable facts.
On behalf of the entire Mozilla team, I hope you and your family are able to stay safe and healthy.
Thank you for your input,
Vice President, Advocacy and Engagement
- Connor Perrett, “Trump is apparently confused about why news outlets projected the election winner as he rails against the results,” Business Insider, Nov 8, 2020
- Karissa Bell, “Facebook takes down pages spreading ‘Stop the Steal’ election misinformation,” Engadget, Nov 9, 2020
- Shira Ovide, “YouTube says video claiming Trump won does not violate its election misinformation policies,” The Verge, Nov 4, 2020
- Kevin Roose, “Tracking Viral Misinformation About the 2020 Election,” NY Times, Nov 10, 2020