Report: TikTok And Facebook Are Approving Ads With Fake News About Elections And Voting. How Can We Help Stop It?

Brazilian elections and US midterms are here. And so is fake news. Manipulation and misinformation across social media is nothing new. However, what has been done to stop it? Let's check it out in this article.

Updated: October 25, 2022
election fake news tiktok facebook

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The proliferation of content brings all types of information. But sometimes those pieces aren’t 100% true. In October and November, we will be facing important political events worldwide. We have the midterms in the United States and the second round of presidential elections in Brazil. These are perfect times to analyze if our attempts to battle fake news are enough. 

But it seems they are not. According to a new report from the Global Witness and the Cybersecurity for Democracy Team (C4D), TikTok and Facebook are still failing at detecting blatant misinformation regarding elections and voting. 

Why do we care so much about the legitimacy of information? Because we have forgotten that social media has become a tool for shaping reality. People make decisions based on what they see in their feeds. 

So the discussion about accountability for what we post on social media is still there. 

How did Youtube, TikTok and Facebook perform in the report?

In the experiment, the researchers from Global Witness submitted 20 ads with false claims on Facebook, TikTok and Youtube. Somehow, Youtube was successful in detecting every submission, but this outcome didn’t apply to Facebook and TikTok. 

According to the report, TikTok approved 90% of ads that contained blatantly false or misleading information. Meanwhile, Facebook approved a “significant number,” according to the report, though noticeably less than TikTok. 

In contrast, Meta, in its official information about midterm elections, has reinforced its commitments to prevent voting interference and sharing reliable information. 

Also, a spokesperson from Facebook declared the test was “based on a very small sample of ads, and is not representative given the number of political ads we review daily across the world.”

Something similar is happening in Brazil. The same NGO, Global Witness, has discovered how YouTube and Facebook are allowing false information during the second round of the presidential election of 2022. 

What has been done to stop fake news?

The leaders from the big social media didn’t stay quiet. The spokesperson from Facebook also adds: “our ads review process has several layers of analysis and detection, both before and after an ad goes live” to answer against the claim of Witness Global.

On the other hand, we can see how they have made statements and guidelines for both the midterms in the United States and the presidential elections in Brazil. They all share some front points, such as: 

  • Investing in specialized teams; 
  • Identify potential threats in real-time;
  • Working with independent fact-checkers;
  • Advocating for transparency

It seems that Meta and TikTok are somehow conscious of this issue. And they appreciate the feedback given from different NGOs. Nonetheless, fake news on digital platforms is still a new phenomenon, and it’s going to take more time for us to see relevant changes. 

How to battle fake news during political events?

Political campaigns are complicated, and we must admit that some parties play it dirty. Which has nothing to do with social media, but with these tools have taken more layers. 

An interesting practice is a warning alert made by Twitter. The message reminds you to read the whole article before retweeting. With this alert, they can prevent people from sharing misleading information. 

The silver lining is that engineers and developers are already working on improving algorithms and fact-checking processes. While they are improving this technology, it is our responsibility as content prosumers to learn to identify misleading information. Luckily, there are a lot of fact-checking tools we can use, besides doing a brief research on Google. 

Double-checking the information we read must be a new habit for maintaining democracy around the world. Just as we shouldn’t believe everything we see on television, we shouldn’t believe everything that is on the internet. 

This way, we can learn how we can create our own criteria based on facts and reliable information.

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