Social Networks Relieved; Midterm elections 2018

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midterm elections
Illustration by Muntaha Hussain l TechEngage

Considering how elections 2016 went for Silicon Valley tech giants, the midterms are good news. The largest social networking companies have claimed that so far all has been well. The takeaway is that the measures these companies took have been working. Organized attempts at preventing gross misinformation or voter prevention have garnered results. Both the largest social networks had a massive responsibility this time around to make sure a replay of the Cambridge Analytica scandal does not happen. However, there is a collective sigh of relief as the polls have passed without any major mishaps.

Elections 2016 Fiasco

There is a wide consensus on the fact that the previous elections were disastrous for social networking sites. There have been countless wrongdoings since then as well but none top the 2016 elections debacle. Thousands of accounts controlled by Russian hackers committed voter suppression and spread vast misinformation. Investigations by federal US authorities confirmed the use of Facebook as the platform for Russian meddling.

A nationwide wave of discontent followed when the Cambridge Analytica scandal confirmed that data at Facebook was not safe either. Facebook CEO had to testify in front of the US Senate in the case that followed. Since 2016, there have been other elections, and each has come with regulators breathing down Facebook’s neck. The biggest trial for social networking companies were the midterms.

Considering a past that is shaky at best, everyone was apprehensive about the midterms. The eyes looking up to social media giants were also looking to the various claims they had made. These claims of groundbreaking reforms to protect voter integrity and smooth election process were to pass the test. An expert confirms, however, that this was only the first step. Bret Schafer from Alliance to Secure Democracy says:

“I remain convinced that the real action will be after the election when we start to see the voter fraud, hacking claims start to roll in.”

Account Removing Measures

A couple of days ago, Facebook reported that it had deleted 115 accounts suspected of inauthentic behavior. According to corporate claims, 30 of these were removed from Facebook while 85 from its other social media network, Instagram. These accounts were reportedly the ones that US federal institutions pointed out to Facebook. Facebook claims that none of this has been unexpected.

Twitter also claims to have removed as many as 10,000 bot accounts. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported these bots to Twitter. These bots were trying to convince people that men should not vote at all hence relegating the sole power to women. Upon investigation, bots under alt-right control were spreading the absurdity. Similar ‘campaigns’ by these bots included convincing people that polls were on November 7 instead of 6.

Muting Bots

Some misinformation managed to slip through the cracks. One specific instant was that of a clip of the US flag burning cut through with a congressional candidate laughing. This disturbing imagery had been retweeted 4000 times before it was discovered. Twitter than proceeded to mute bot activity altogether. Corporate also claimed that bot activity had been significantly down in the last few days.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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