Facebook users rarely saw voting misinformation labeled ‘false,’ says study — especially if it came from Trump

Fb addressed false election info with understated warnings like “lacking context” quite than extra direct flags, research from The Markup suggests — and the corporate appeared hesitant to label false or deceptive statements from now-banned former President Donald Trump.

The Markup has launched new data from its Citizen Browser, which captures snapshots of what 2,200 volunteers see of their Fb feeds. Its report covers December and January, two contentious months the place then-President Trump falsely claimed victory within the election. Fb implemented special banners and labeling techniques to tell customers about election outcomes and fact-check false posts. The Citizen Browser Mission affords a window right into a seemingly sophisticated and hyper-nuanced course of.

In response to The Markup, solely a minority of contributors noticed any flagged content material: 330 individuals have been served a complete of 682 posts labeled “false, devoid of context, or associated to an particularly controversial concern, just like the presidential election.” The overwhelming majority of those labels simply directed individuals towards voting outcomes, and so they have been added to “something election-related.”

Many of the remaining flags have been utilized to Trump posts, and a few of these posts contained clearly false info, like a declare that it was “statistically not possible” for President Joe Biden to win the election. However The Markup notes that these posts have been by no means labeled “false” or “deceptive.” As an alternative, Fb did issues like add generic warnings about election integrity. General, “false” labels solely appeared on a complete of 12 posts — together with ones “linking Invoice Gates to a world domination plot, or one which stated ‘Biden didn’t win legally.’” Fb was extra possible to make use of a flag for “lacking context,” which appeared 38 occasions.

Fb advised The Markup that “we don’t touch upon information that we are able to’t validate, however we’re trying into the examples shared.” And The Markup notes that Fb claims to scale back the unfold of false claims, so customers might have been merely prevented from seeing many posts flagged as “false.” Nonetheless, it additionally describes “lacking context” flags getting utilized to posts that clearly however not directly endorsed false conspiracy theories — one thing that makes it “a lot much less apparent that the put up was unfaithful.”

General, the Citizen Browser Mission solely affords a restricted image of what’s happening contained in the platform, though it’s nonetheless invaluable for filling in gaps left by Facebook’s own analytics tool CrowdTangle. However the analysis does counsel that, as The Markup writes, Fb handled Trump posts with “child gloves” till it outright suspended him following the January sixth assault on the US Capitol. That call shall be reviewed by the Facebook Oversight Board within the close to future — and if it’s reversed, Fb might find yourself dealing with the identical moderation questions once more.

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