Warner calls for Facebook, Twitter and Google to safeguard against election disinformation

Warner calls for Facebook, Twitter and Google to safeguard against election disinformation
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerAdvocates call on top Democrats for 0B in housing investments Democrats draw red lines in spending fight Manchin puts foot down on key climate provision in spending bill MORE (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on Facebook, Twitter and Google to implement safeguards against the spread of disinformation on their platforms in the remaining weeks before Nov. 3. 

Warner wrote individual letters to the tech giants Tuesday urging “stronger accountability and transparency standards in the context of our nation’s upcoming election,” underscoring his request by highlighting past and ongoing foreign efforts to interfere in U.S. elections. He called for the companies to better identify, label or remove disinformation and misinformation

Warner said Facebook and Google are vectors “for disinformation, viral misinformation and voters suppression efforts,” and that misinformation spreading on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube pose “a serious threat” to national security. 

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“Ahead of the next month’s election, I urge you to take all possible steps to reinforce Facebook’s efforts against abuse of both your paid political content and organic content policies,” he wrote in one letter, making the same request to both Google and Twitter in their respective letters. 

“I also request that you more aggressively identify, more prominently label, or ideally remove manipulated or synthetic media ahead of the election to prevent the amplification of disinformation from Russia and those following their playbook,” the senator added. 

He urged all three companies to implement the requirements of the Honest Ads Act, a bill co-sponsored by Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHarris, CBC put weight behind activist-led National Black Voter Day Seven takeaways from California's recall election Live coverage: California voters to decide Newsom's fate MORE (D-Minn.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows Trump offers sympathy for those charged with Jan. 6 offenses Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-S.C.), that would require digital platforms to maintain a detailed public file about ads with the aim of increasing transparency of who buys political ads on social media.

Warner also pushed Twitter to reverse its ban on paid political content and restrictions ahead of the election, calling for them to instead “reinstate these ads with transparency and accountability protections” proposed in the legislation. 

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed the company received the letter and intends to respond. Spokespeople for Google and Facebook were not immediately available for comment. 

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Tech companies have been under renewed scrutiny over their handling of misinformation in the weeks leading up to Election Day and amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

On Tuesday both Facebook and Twitter took action on posts from President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE that falsely claimed the flu virus is more lethal than COVID-19. Facebook removed the president’s post and Twitter placed a label on the post warning that it violated rules about spreading coronavirus misinformation. 

The coronavirus, for which Trump himself is being treated after testing positive last week, has killed more than 209,000 people in the U.S. since the outbreak began earlier this year.

The annual flu death total has been between 12,000 and 61,000 since 2010, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, and the nation’s flu deaths have not hit an estimated 100,000 since 1968.