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How social platforms influenced the 2016 election

From Facebook to alt-right Reddit, social media communities played a large role in gathering young voters for the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton spoke of her supporters in "secret Facebook groups" while Mark Zuckerberg, post-election, dismissed the notion that Facebook had any influence over Tuesday's outcome. But social platforms absolutely affected the election results: here's a look at how.

  • Casey Newton

    Sep 25, 2018

    Casey Newton

    The case that Russia is winning the cyberwar

    Kathleen Hall Jamieson is a prominent political scientist and professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania. For the past 40 years, she has studied political communication: debates, advertisements, and speeches. In the aftermath of the 2016 election, she studied the effect that the debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had on the electorate. That set Jamieson down a road that led her to a bold (if not particularly original) conclusion: Russia very likely tipped the election to Trump.

    What makes Jamieson’s take notable is her scrupulously data-driven approach to answering a question that many people have dismissed as impossible. And while she stipulates that no one will ever be able to say with absolute certainty what tipped the election, Jamieson’s new book presents the case that Russia’s covert influence campaign was likely decisive in Trump’s victory.

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  • Casey Newton

    May 24, 2018

    Casey Newton

    Facebook disclosure requirements for political ads take effect in the United States today

    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Facebook’s new rules regarding disclosures for political ads take effect in the United States today, requiring election-related and issue ads to include information about who paid for them. A new “paid for” label will be visible at the top of ads on Facebook and Instagram, and clicking it will take you to a page with information about the cost of the ad and the demographic breakdown of the audience that saw it.

    Advertisers will also have to verify their identity and location, a move that Facebook says will discourage foreign agents from attempting to interfere in outside elections. Facebook announced new rules around ad disclosures last year after revelations that Russians had illegally run ads on the platform during the 2016 US presidential election. The company began testing its new disclosure policies in Canada earlier this year.

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  • Casey Newton

    Mar 29, 2018

    Casey Newton

    This is Facebook’s self-defense plan for the 2018 midterm elections

    Photo by Michele Doying / The Verge

    Facebook has a four-part plan to protect its platform from malicious attacks during the 2018 US midterm elections, company executives said today. In a conference call with reporters, representatives from Facebook’s security, product, and advertising teams laid out their strategy for preventing the kinds of problems that plagued it during the 2016 campaign. While most bad actors are motivated by profits, executives said, state-sponsored attackers continue in their efforts to manipulate public opinion using posts on Facebook.

    Here’s Facebook’s plan to shore up its security over the next several months.

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  • Casey Newton

    Mar 17, 2018

    Casey Newton

    Facebook suspended Donald Trump’s data operations team for misusing people’s personal information

    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Facebook said late Friday that it had suspended Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), along with its political data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, for violating its policies around data collection and retention. The companies, which ran data operations for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign, are widely credited with helping Trump more effectively target voters on Facebook than his rival, Hillary Clinton. While the exact nature of their role remains somewhat mysterious, Facebook’s disclosure suggests that the company improperly obtained user data that could have given it an unfair advantage in reaching voters.

    Facebook said it cannot determine whether or how the data in question could have been used in conjunction with election ad campaigns. Cambridge Analytica did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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  • Casey Newton

    Nov 1, 2017

    Casey Newton

    Senators blast tech companies over Russian meddling: ‘Do something about it — or we will’

    Dianne Feinstein Holds Press Conference On Impacts Of Medicaid Cuts On Kids
    Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Senators raised the stakes against some of America’s biggest tech companies on Wednesday, telling them they must take more comprehensive action against foreign actors misusing their platforms. “You created these platforms ... and now they’re being misused,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told the top lawyers at Facebook, Google, and Twitter. “And you have to be the ones who do something about it — or we will.” 

    Feinstein’s remarks came during a blistering hearing of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russian meddling interference in the 2016 election. It is the second of three hearings at which representatives for Facebook, Google, and Twitter will speak, following yesterday’s appearance before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.

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  • Casey Newton

    Oct 31, 2017

    Casey Newton

    Senators grill tech companies about Russian interference, but don’t get very far

    Facebook, Google And Twitter Executives Testify Before Congress On Russian Disinformation
    Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    A bipartisan group of Senators grilled tech companies today about how Russians used their platforms to interfere in the 2016 election, calling on them to better monitor abuse in the future. A subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary committee challenged top lawyers from Facebook, Google, and Twitter on the potential use of shell companies to hide advertiser identities, the malicious use of bot networks, and the limited capabilities of existing ad review policies. But despite the bipartisan appeal of criticizing the tech companies in public, it’s not clear what, if anything, will come of the critiques.

    Facebook, Google, and Twitter sent top legal officials to Washington this week for a series of hearings about Russian interference in 2016 election. In prepared statements, which leaked yesterday, executives pledged their commitment to fighting foreign interference while disclosing that the problem was bigger than they had previously admitted.

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  • Casey Newton

    Oct 30, 2017

    Casey Newton

    Russia’s election posts reached 126 million people, Facebook will tell Congress

    Facebook stock image

    Russia’s surreptitious campaign to meddle in the US election reached 126 million people through posts on the social network, according to prepared testimony obtained by The Verge. That figure, which is more than 10 times the number of people reportedly exposed to Russia-linked advertising on the site, indicates that more than half of US Facebook users saw Russia-linked posts in the months leading up to the election.

    The figures are disclosed in prepared testimony scheduled to be delivered Tuesday by Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing. “The foreign interference we saw is reprehensible and outrageous and opened a new battleground for our company, our industry and our society,” the testimony says. “That foreign actors, hiding behind fake accounts, abused our platform and other internet services to try to sow division and discord — and to try to undermine our election process — is an assault on democracy, and it violates all of our values.” 

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  • Casey Newton

    Oct 12, 2017

    Casey Newton

    Russia reportedly used Pokémon Go in an effort to inflame racial tensions

    Pokemon Go
    James Bareham / The Verge

    Russia’s far-ranging campaign to promote dissension in the United States reportedly included an effort to weaponize Pokémon Go. CNN reported today that in July 2016, a Tumblr page linked to Russia’s now-notorious Internet Research Agency promoted a contest encouraging people sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement to play the game near famous sites of police brutality. Players were told to change their characters’ names to the victims of those incidents — an apparent effort to inflame racial tensions.

    The Tumblr page was linked to Do Not Shoot Us, a multi-platform campaign designed to mimic aspects of Black Lives Matter. (As CNN notes, the name plays on “hands up, don’t shoot,” one of the movement’s slogans.) Do Not Shoot Us included a website, donotshoot.us, along with related pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. The Facebook page was one of 470 pages that were removed after the company determined that it was linked to Russian groups attempting to interfere in US politics.

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  • Casey Newton

    Dec 7, 2016

    Casey Newton

    Facebook is patenting a tool that could help automate removal of fake news

    As Facebook works on new tools to stop the spread of misinformation on its network, it’s seeking to patent technology that could be used for that purpose. This month the US Trademark and Patent Office published Facebook’s application for Patent 0350675: “systems and methods to identify objectionable content.” The application, which was filed in June 2015, describes a sophisticated system for identifying inappropriate text and images and removing them from the network.

    As described in the application, the primary purpose of the tool is to improve the detection of pornography, hate speech, and bullying. But last month, Zuckerberg highlighted the need for “better technical systems to detect what people will flag as false before they do it themselves.” The patent published Thursday, which is still pending approval, offers some ideas for how such a system could work.

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  • Adi Robertson

    Nov 16, 2016

    Adi Robertson

    Facebook's Like button is a built-in filter bubble

    facebook like symbol

    Imagine if every newspaper came with a mandatory T-shirt. Suddenly, that tabloid you paged through out of curiosity becomes part of your identity. You have to explain to friends that despite being a walking billboard, you don’t actually agree with The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorials, or think The New York Times is too liberal but still covers the facts. Increasingly, you stick to outlets you unambiguously approve of, reinforcing things you already believe.

    This is how Facebook imagines the future of news, and it’s absurd.

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  • Casey Newton

    Nov 16, 2016

    Casey Newton

    The author of The Filter Bubble on how fake news is eroding trust in journalism

    In the aftermath of a US presidential election that seemed to shock at least half the country, many Americans are asking themselves how they missed the popularity of Donald Trump. One answer is a concept known as the filter bubble: the idea that personalization tools from companies like Facebook and Google have isolated us from opposing viewpoints, leading conservatives and liberals to feel like they occupy separate realities.

    The concept was popularized by Eli Pariser, co-founder of Upworthy, who wrote a best-selling book about the subject in 2012. In it, he argued that the internet is highly effective at bringing like-minded groups of people together — and terrible at creating space for differently minded people to debate.

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  • Kaitlyn Tiffany

    Nov 16, 2016

    Kaitlyn Tiffany

    In the war on fake news, school librarians have a huge role to play

    Goethe Universitaet Frankfurt To Celebrate 100th Anniversary
    Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

    Concern about the prevalence of fake or sensationally biased news sources has escalated in the days following the presidential election, with many citing it as a factor (some even the primary cause) of Donald Trump’s win.

    The central focus of the concern is Facebook, which has grown beyond a social platform and is now a key information distributor from which 44 percent of Americans get their news. Though Mark Zuckerberg stated publicly that the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election was “crazy,” a BuzzFeed News report uncovered that people within his own company consider this response flippant and are busy organizing in secret to dig into the data and make recommendations to senior leadership. This news came out after a Gizmodo report stated that Facebook had already built a system that could weed out fake news but had chosen not to deploy it because of the undesirable optics of the tool going after mostly right-wing “news” sources. Facebook has denied that report, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about what’s going on behind closed doors.

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  • Jacob Kastrenakes

    Nov 15, 2016

    Jacob Kastrenakes

    Facebook employees reportedly forming secret ‘task force’ to address fake news

    Annual Allen And Co. Investors Meeting Draws CEO's And Business Leaders To Sun Valley, Idaho
    Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Mark Zuckerberg may not care that much about the fake news stories run amok on Facebook, but some employees within his company appear to have very different views.

    According to BuzzFeed News, “more than dozens” of employees have organized a secret “task force” that intends to create and deliver a series of recommendations to Facebook leadership on what the company can do about its fake news problem.

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  • Nick Statt

    Nov 14, 2016

    Nick Statt

    Google will soon ban fake news sites from using its ad network

    Today, Google announced that its advertising tools will soon be closed to websites that promote fake news, a policy that could cut off revenue streams for publications that peddle hoaxes on platforms like Facebook. The decision comes at a critical time for the tech industry, whose key players have come under fire for not taking neccesary steps to prevent fake news from proliferating across the web during the 2016 US election. It’s thought that, given the viral aspects of fake news, social networks and search engines were gamed by partisan bad actors intending to influence the outcome of the race.

    "Moving forward, we will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher's content, or the primary purpose of the web property," a Google spokesperson said in a statement given to Reuters. This policy includes fake news sites, the spokesperson confirmed. Google already prevents its AdSense program from being used by sites that promote violent videos and imagery, pornography, and hate speech.

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  • Casey Newton

    Nov 14, 2016

    Casey Newton

    What we know, and what we don’t, about Facebook’s effort to reduce hoaxes

    Facebook New News Feed (STOCK)

    Nearly a week after the US presidential election, Facebook continues to be roundly criticized for its role in spreading misinformation. In the wake of a close contest, some have said Facebook’s lax attitude toward hoaxes swung the election to Donald Trump. The controversy has renewed calls for the company to take its fake news problem more seriously.

    Today Gizmodo published a much-discussed story reporting that Facebook had built and abandoned a tool to reduce the spread of fake news stories over fears that the tool would disproportionately affect conservative news sites. Facebook acknowledged that the company has been reconsidering its approach to combating hoaxes, but says the story’s central allegation is false. So what’s really going on?

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  • Natt Garun

    Nov 14, 2016

    Natt Garun

    Facebook reportedly had a fake news fix, but was too afraid to use it

    Mark Zuckerberg

    A new report says Facebook shelved an update that would have suppressed fake news from going viral on the social network. According to Gizmodo, high-ranking Facebook executives were briefed on an update that identified fake news and hoaxes, but the tool was never released in fears of “upsetting conservatives.”

    The tool, which heavily affected right-wing media, was reportedly killed following revelations that the company’s human-curated Trending Topics team often favored liberal topics. Facebook then fired the team in place of an algorithm, which instead regularly surfaced fake news onto Trending Topics. It also updated the news feed to favor stories about friends and family over clickbait headlines and spam.

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  • Lizzie Plaugic

    Nov 14, 2016

    Lizzie Plaugic

    Google's answer to 'who won the popular vote' is a conspiracy blog

    Last week, Facebook faced criticism that the platform’s habit for surfacing fake news contributed to the election of Donald Trump — a claim Mark Zuckerberg denied. This week, Google faces a similar problem, as its search algorithm surfaces fake election results.

    As Mediaite’s Dan Abrams first reported, when you search “final election numbers” or “final vote count 2016,” the first result in Google’s “in the news” box is from a scrappy-looking Wordpress blog called 70 News that appears to be run by one person. The article, posted on November 12th, features the headline “FINAL ELECTION 2016 NUMBERS: TRUMP WON BOTH POPULAR ( 62.9 M -62.2 M ) AND ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES ( 306-232)…HEY CHANGE.ORG, SCRAP YOUR LOONY PETITION NOW!”

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  • Rich McCormick

    Nov 14, 2016

    Rich McCormick

    Donald Trump says Facebook and Twitter ‘helped him win’

    Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Appears With His Vice Presidential Candidate Pick Indiana Gov. Mike Pence
    Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Mark Zuckerberg has spent the days since Donald Trump was voted in as 45th president of the United States downplaying Facebook’s role in the election, but that position may be harder to maintain now, as Trump himself has identified Facebook as a key element in helping him secure victory. “The fact that I have such power in terms of numbers with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.,” Trump said on CBS’ 60 Minutes on Sunday. “I think it helped me win all of these races where they’re spending much more money than I spent.”

    The president-elect specified that social networks helped him win without him needing to spend as much as the Clinton campaign on other advertising, both digital and traditional. “I think that social media has more power than the money they spent,” he told host Lesley Stahl, a hypothesis that he said he “proved” to a certain extent.

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  • Nov 13, 2016

    Andrew Liptak

    Mark Zuckerberg warns about Facebook 'becoming arbiters of truth'

    mark zuckerberg

    Facebook has been under the spotlight following the results of this week’s presidential election. While Mark Zuckerberg has dismissed claims that his company has unduly influenced the election, others at Facebook are beginning to look closely at their role in the media landscape, according to The New York Times.

    Last night, Zuckerberg posted a lengthy status update to his page, outlining his thoughts on his company's role in the election, noting that "99 percent of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes."

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  • Casey Newton

    Nov 11, 2016

    Casey Newton

    Zuckerberg: the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election is ‘crazy’

    After a day of criticism over his company’s role in spreading fake news about political candidates, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg rejected the idea that the News Feed had tilted the election in favor of Donald Trump. “Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way — I think is a pretty crazy idea. Voters make decisions based on their lived experience.”

    Zuckerberg was speaking at the Technonomy conference, where interviewer David Kirkpatrick pressed him on Facebook’s growing power as a distributor of news and information. He said people who reacted with shock to Trump’s victory had underestimated his support. “I do think there is a certain profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason someone could have voted the way they did is they saw some fake news,” Zuckerberg said. “If you believe that, then I don’t think you have internalized the message the Trump supporters are trying to send in this election.”

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  • Nov 10, 2016

    Colin Lecher

    Facebook on its fake news problem: 'there's so much more we need to do'

    After this week's unexpected election of Donald Trump to the presidency, some have pointed to Facebook's enabling of misinformation as one source that fed his success. Now, Facebook is admitting it must try harder to fight the problem.

    In a statement first provided to TechCrunch, VP of product management Adam Mosseri said Facebook works to combat misinformation, but admitted "there's so much more we need to do."

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  • Nov 9, 2016

    Colin Lecher

    Clinton asks Facebook supporters to 'come out' from secret groups

    In her concession speech today, Hillary Clinton thanked her supporters, and specifically called out to those who showed their support online, "even in secret, private Facebook sites."

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  • Lizzie Plaugic

    Nov 9, 2016

    Lizzie Plaugic

    Facebook feature that informs users of newly elected representatives is broken

    facebook reps

    Earlier today, Facebook rolled out a feature that was supposed to show users newly elected representatives based on their location. Now, that feature already seems to be broken for some users.

    Facebook is calling the feature a “civic checkup” — it’s basically just a list of elected representatives in the House and Senate, as well as previously elected local officials, but the page where it lives is currently down. Some Verge staffers have gotten the feature to work on mobile. It looks like this:

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  • The positive peer pressure of the ‘I Voted’ selfie

    Today, the trash fire known as the 2016 election will finally be doused with the water of our nation’s citizenry. As Americans file out of their polling place, many will leave with a small sticker bearing the phrase “I Voted.”

    It’s a cute idea with a long history; stickers are a persistent election tradition that have been around since the ‘80s. Sometimes they can get you free stuff. Mostly they’re a way to show everyone just how patriotic you are.

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  • Lizzie Plaugic

    Nov 8, 2016

    Lizzie Plaugic

    Clinton campaign launches ‘digital hotline’ where users can text or tweet Election Day questions

    Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Casts Her Vote On Election Day
    Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Today is Election Day in the United States, which means it’s a day set aside specifically for the act of voting. And yet, voting in the US is often more difficult than it could be. Polling places around the country have reported extremely long lines and instances of machines on the fritz. On top of that, voter suppression is a very real threat; Reuters recently obtained emails that proved Republicans in North Carolina were attempting to limit the availability of polling places in locations that leaned Democratic. So, in an effort to make things run a little more smoothly, Hillary Clinton’s campaign team just launched a “digital hotline” where voters can ask questions on Twitter, Facebook, and via text, Wired reports.

    More than 50 staffers and volunteers, as well as voting rights lawyers, will be available all day today to answer questions, according to Wired. People can tweet at the @HFA Twitter account, post on the Hillary Clinton Facebook page, or text “question” to 47246.

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