HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE SENDS FACEBOOK, TWITTER, AND LINKEDIN LETTERS REGARDING ELECTION MISINFORMATION THREATS

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[Technology News\Election Disinformation]
“Social media has become part of our everyday lives, allowing us to connect with one another and share news, media, and information more easily and widely than ever before. Foreign adversaries are exploiting social media to seek political, economic, and military advantage over the United States and its allies.”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, Chairman Bennie Thompson (MS-02), above, and Vice-Chair Lauren Underwood (IL-14) of the House Homeland Security Committee sent letters to chief executives of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn seeking answers from each company about their respective policies and processes available for users to report suspected misinformation and disinformation.

The letters follow a Homeland Security hearing held on October 22, on election security where witnesses were unable to communicate to members of the Committee the steps social media users can take to report content containing election-related misinformation or disinformation. Thompson and Underwood sent the letter with the goal of ensuring social media companies provide clear methods for their users to report suspected misinformation and disinformation.

In the letter, Thompson and Underwood expressed concerns about the potential risks that false information on social media sites presents to the security of U.S. elections and to public confidence in our democracy. To ensure that social media users have the necessary resources to help combat the spread of online misinformation and disinformation, Members requested clear and detailed information on each company’s internal and external policies for reporting election-related misinformation and disinformation.

“Social media has become part of our everyday lives, allowing us to connect with one another and share news, media, and information more easily and widely than ever before. Foreign adversaries are exploiting social media to seek political, economic, and military advantage over the United States and its allies,” the members wrote.

Policies that affect users of social media platforms must be accessible and understandable to those users, in addition to industry experts and to the platforms’ employees. Yet our constituents in Illinois and Mississippi report they have difficulty finding clear guidelines about how to identify and report potential misinformation and disinformation,” the members continued.

The full text of the letter can be found below.

"Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

"As the 2020 elections approach, we are writing to request clear and detailed information on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp’s policies and processes for user reporting of suspected election interference on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. The U.S. Intelligence Community has determined that foreign adversaries are increasingly using social media platforms to spread disinformation with the intent to undermine the integrity of U.S. elections. As Chair and Vice-Chair of the Committee on Homeland Security, we believe you must remain vigilant as these adversaries’ attacks on America’s democratic institutions continue to utilize social media and evolve.

"Social media has become part of our everyday lives, allowing us to connect with one another and share news, media, and information more easily and widely than ever before. Foreign adversaries are exploiting social media 'to seek political, economic, and military advantage over the United States and its allies.”

"On Tuesday, October 22, 2019, the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation held a hearing entitled 'Preparing for the Future: An Assessment of Emerging Cyber Threats.' Members heard testimony from experts in industry and academia on the next generation of cyber threats, including online misinformation and disinformation. Witnesses provided testimony on how advancements in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and other technologies can both enable and undermine national security by introducing new vulnerabilities and changing the overall threat landscape.

"Members had the opportunity to question witnesses on the policies and processes that social media platforms have in place to allow users to report suspected content containing misinformation or disinformation. We were concerned to hear that not one of these subject matter experts was able to understand and clearly communicate these policies and processes. For example, one witness shared that 'the only way [he] was able to report a fake LinkedIn profile that had connected with [him] was to tweet at LinkedIn' from his public Twitter account.

"Policies that affect users of social media platforms must be accessible and understandable to those users, in addition to industry experts and to the platforms’ employees. Yet our constituents in Illinois and Mississippi report they have difficulty finding clear guidelines about how to identify and report potential misinformation and disinformation on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

"Our constituents, and many other Americans, are rightly concerned about the potential risks of false information on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp to the security of our elections and public confidence in our democracy. In order to ensure Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp users have the necessary resources to help combat the spread of online misinformation and disinformation, we respectfully request that you provide responses in writing to the following by December 18, 2019:

"(1) Please provide a detailed description of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp’s internal and external policies relating to false content on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp’s platform.

"(2) Please provide a detailed description of the process for Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp users to report suspected false content to Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

"(3) Please also describe Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp’s processes and policies for reviewing and adjudicating reports of false content or election interference, including any process for users to appeal Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp’s decision on the report.

"(4) What guidance does Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp provide to allow users to identify and report posts or content that contains suspected misinformation or disinformation?

"(5) On average, how long does it take Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp to review and respond to a user report of misinformation or disinformation?

"(6) Do you believe Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp has a responsibility to ensure information shared by users and third-party advertisers on your platform is accurate? How often does Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp evaluate and update its Advertising and Community Standards policies, specifically those relating to misinformation, disinformation, and election interference? Please provide a detailed timeline of changes Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp has made to these policies and processes since November 8, 2016.

"(7) Reports indicate third-party fact-checkers have urged Facebook to share more data to curb the spread of misinformation. What is Facebook doing to engage with all 54 fact-checking partners to ensure each has the information needed to effectively evaluate content?

"(8) Please provide a detailed list of experts Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp consults with when developing policies and processes to ensure users see accurate information about U.S. elections."

 

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