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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 WarnerDefense policy bill would create new cyber czar position Sweeping financial crimes bill to hitch a ride on defense measure Bipartisan, bicameral group unveils 8 billion coronavirus proposal 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 KlobucharSenate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners Scammers step up efforts to target older Americans during pandemic Hillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk MORE (D-Minn.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBiden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country The Memo: Harris moves signal broad role as VP Former US attorney asks for probe of allegations Graham pressured Georgia official 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 John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts 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.