Twitter’s tool for reporting instances of voter suppression is now available for US users, just days ahead of the 2020 Iowa caucuses (via Politico). In its “report this tweet” drop-down menu, US Twitter users now will be able to choose “it’s misleading about a political election” or “it intends to suppress or intimidate someone from voting” as options. If Twitter finds the tweet violates its election integrity policy, the user could be asked to remove the tweet, and repeated abusers could be banned from the platform.
To avoid getting flagged for violating Twitter’s voter suppression rules, don’t tweet a fake election date, for instance, and don’t tweet that one group of voters can vote online or on a different day. And definitely don’t sow confusion about voter ID rules, which vary greatly from state to state, or pretend you are pals with a candidate (or are a candidate) if you’re not.
Of course, this is just the latest example of Twitter asking users to police the bad behavior of other users, and while it’s nice to have the reporting option, it’s not guaranteed that Twitter will be able to enforce the rules. As longtime users are well aware, Twitter is notorious for inconsistent enforcement.
It’s also not clear how Twitter will prevent the anti-election fraud tool from being used by trolls to attack candidates or other users they disagree with, which also is against its policy. Twitter first rolled out the election fraud tool in India last April during that country’s elections, and in the European Union ahead of its May elections, but didn’t explain today how well it had worked back then.
Twitter announced the US addition to its fraud reporting tools the same day Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, unveiled a plan to fight online disinformation. A vocal critic of social media, Warren’s plan appears to be the first to connect social media platforms’ algorithms to disinformation campaigns.
“Users should have more choice in determining how their data and preferences are used to influence the information they see,” Warren wrote in the plan. “Social media platforms should allow users to understand how algorithms affect their use of the platform, and to opt out of algorithmic amplification.”
The new reporting tools are just the latest of Twitter’s plans and policies to try to prevent election fraud in the US. Its new rules on political advertising went into effect November 22nd, banning ads for candidates, political parties, government officials, legislation, regulation, referendums, or ballot measures. Its “cause-based” ad policy also limits who can post sponsored content on topics like climate change, abortion, or animal rights, and you can’t target such ads based on users’ age, race, or a specific location. Responding to criticism that the ad ban seemed to favor political incumbents, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said, “Many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising.”
And in another example of Twitter putting into place a policy that it doesn’t appear to have enforced, last June, the company said it would begin putting a “notice” over tweets from political figures which broke its content policies, but were still in the public interest. So far, it doesn’t look like any political figures have ended up in Twitter’s gray box.