Press Release

Public Knowledge Joins 12 Public Interest Groups Urging Big Tech to Fight California’s Election Disinformation

September 2, 2021
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Today, Public Knowledge joined 12 other public interest, consumer advocacy, and voting rights groups in a letter urging major social media platforms to immediately fight online disinformation being spread to influence voters in California’s recall election. The groups argue that bad actors are once again wielding disinformation narratives to sway an election, but the platforms have the power to stop it — and should act now to protect the integrity of California’s election.

The following is an excerpt from the letter:

“Less than a year ago, the large social media and technology companies you run implemented several measures to limit the spread of disinformation related to the 2020 election. While those steps were far from perfect, they nevertheless [slowed] the spread of dangerous lies, conspiracy theories, and attempts to deceive voters.

“But today, with roughly two weeks remaining for Californians to vote in the recall election, many of the same disinformation narratives your platforms grappled with last November are at play. The false and destructive narratives on your platforms about elections are not going away. It’s time to increase your diligence and enforce civic integrity policies. We know…  that limiting the spread of election-related disinformation is possible — if you make doing so a priority.”

The following can be attributed to Lisa Macpherson, Senior Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge:

“Bad actors are once again wielding disinformation about the election process to sway a democratic election, and thus far, Big Tech has done little to thwart them. We learned in the weeks leading up to the national 2020 presidential election that in a high-stakes situation — where the potential for harm is high and the number of credible sources is finite — digital platforms can and will develop new solutions to minimize and mitigate the spread of politically motivated disinformation. These platforms must act now if we’re to protect our nation’s election integrity.

“We need Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter to take accountability for the content on their platforms by enhancing content moderation, labeling disputed or inaccurate information, highlighting authoritative sources, and by sharing real-time access to social media data with external researchers and watchdogs. If they don’t, we could again witness the catastrophic consequences of allowing disinformation narratives to go unchecked during an election — jeopardizing all of us.”

You may view the letter for more information. You may also view our recent blog posts, “The Election Misinformation War Has Only Just Begun” and “Understanding Election Disinformation in 2016, 2020, and Beyond,” to learn more about the threat of election misinformation. You may view our “Superfund for the Internet” proposal outlining how compelling digital platforms to adopt fact-checking in their content moderation approaches can counter misinformation online.