(CNN Business) — As supporters of President Donald Trump continue to spread unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud, a new theme emerges in their attacks on the legitimacy of the elections. Widespread allegations that President-elect Joe Biden “stole” the election are now tinged with unsubstantiated claims that the media is rescinating its projections in certain states or changing them in ways that disadvantage Biden. These claims are false. But they continue to circulate virally on social networks and show how, for online platforms, the problem of disinformation is as serious as ever.
In one prominent example, a YouTube video mistakenly claiming that Joe Biden is “losing” his status as president-elect of the United States has racked up more than a million views as of Tuesday afternoon and has been widely shared among groups of people. High performance Facebook dedicated to politics.
The main source cited by the video is a misinformed and now deleted tweet by Trump adviser Pam Bondi, who falsely claimed that the RealClearPolitics website had reversed its projection that Biden had won the Pennsylvania Electoral College votes. That claim has also been echoed by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, among others.
Pennsylvania projections of Biden haven’t changed
But RealClearPolitics co-founder Tom Bevan publicly denied the claim Monday night.
“We never came up with a winner in Pennsylvania and nothing has changed,” Bevan tweeted.
Major outlets like CNN, NBC News, Associated Press and Fox News have cast Biden as the winner in Pennsylvania, and none have backed down from that decision. There is also no indication that Trump’s legal challenges could legitimately threaten Biden’s leadership in the state. According to CNN’s tally, this was more than 47,000 votes as of Tuesday afternoon, about 87 times the 537 votes that separated George W. Bush and Al Gore in Florida in 2000. And it’s growing.
Yet despite a contextual tag on YouTube that says the AP has cast Biden as the winner of the presidency, the video continues to spread largely unchecked on the platform. It has also been posted numerous times in what Facebook data shows is currently the most politically related group on its platform.
What YouTube said
YouTube told CNN Business that the video does not violate community guidelines, which simply prohibit misleading content on how to vote, not on election results or vote counting.
“Search results and related videos, including this video, appear on a dashboard noting that the AP has screened the presidential race for Joe Biden and that strong safeguards help ensure the integrity of elections and elections. results, ”YouTube spokeswoman Ivy Choi said in a statement. “We continue to highlight authoritative content in search results and recommendations, including search queries related to this topic, and general election-related queries are raising authoritative news sources such as ABC News and CNBC.”
In a statement sent to CNN Tuesday night, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said third-party fact-checkers had already branded the video false.
“As a result, its distribution is drastically reduced, so fewer people can see it,” Stone said. “Anyone who sees it, tries to share it, or has already done so will see warnings alerting them that it is false.”
Nor in Georgia and Arizona
Other social media users have falsely claimed that CNN has changed its projections for Georgia and Arizona in ways that benefit Trump. In fact, CNN, at no point, projected a 2020 presidential winner in either state, although some other outlets, including AP and Fox News, have listed Biden as the winner in Arizona.
The flow of misinformation continues despite some efforts by tech platforms to stem the tide. In recent days, Facebook has removed several pages linked to former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon for spreading misinformation. The removal affected at least seven pages with more than 2.45 million combined followers, according to Avaaz, an activist group that alerted Facebook to the network on Friday. That removal included pages under the names Conservative Values, The Undefeated, We Build the Wall and Trump at War, which Avaaz said shared false information about the election with the slogan “Stop the Steal.” The page removal was first reported by The Washington Post.
“We have removed various activity groups for using inauthentic behavioral tactics to artificially increase the number of people who viewed their content,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement. The company confirmed that it reduced the layout of Bannon’s page, but did not remove it, after it tried to make some of its content appear more popular than it actually was.
False claims pile up
But false and misleading claims keep piling up on social media almost faster than businesses can tackle.
What is driving the misinformation is social media influencers and superusers, said Alex Stamos, a former chief security officer at Facebook and a security expert at Stanford University. “There is a relatively small number of people with a large following who have the ability to find a narrative somewhere, take it out of the dark – a tweet, a photo, a video – and solidify it in these narratives,” Stamos said in a conference call. on Tuesday hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Laboratory.
Security and disinformation researchers warn of the long-term consequences of allowing false claims to spread.
“Think how difficult it will be to get people who don’t believe in the election results to take the public health measures put in place by the new administration,” tweeted Karen Kornbluh, disinformation expert at the US German Marshall Fund.
It may already be too late
James Lewis, a security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that social media platforms “must be more aggressive to eliminate hysterical statements of electoral cheating.”
“Failure to delete posts increases the likelihood that those who read them will commit violence,” he added.
But some experts caution that for some Internet users, it may already be too late.
“What I predict we will continue to see is consolidation around a couple of narratives that have more staying power that fit into this false meta narrative of voter fraud that continues and persists,” said Kate Starbird, associate professor at the University of Washington. “These will persist for years or even decades, sadly, because people are highly motivated both to participate in them and to believe them.”
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