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Facebook and TikTok block hashtags used to spread election conspiracy theories

Facebook and TikTok block hashtags used to spread election conspiracy theories


Twitter says it’s ‘proactively monitoring’ them

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Facebook and TikTok have blocked hashtags that were being used to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories about the presidential election. The hashtags generally revolved around unfounded claims that Democrats are trying to manipulate the election to defeat President Trump.

On Facebook, the blocked hashtags include #stopthesteal, which has been broadly used to make unsubstantiated claims of election fraud by Democrats, and #sharpiegate, which incorrectly alleges that the use of Sharpie markers caused Trump votes to go uncounted in Arizona. TikTok blocked #sharpiegate, #stopthesteal, and the more general term #riggedelection. Both sets of blocked hashtags were spotted by TechCrunch.

Social media companies have been trying to quickly stamp out election misinformation this week

While Twitter doesn’t appear to have blocked any election conspiracy theory hashtags, the company has been adding warning labels to some tweets, saying that they may contain inaccurate information. Other tweets have been tagged with a message encouraging readers to learn more about election security efforts.

The moderation of these conspiracy-theory-focused hashtags is part of a broader effort by social platforms this week to quickly stamp out misinformation around the election. Twitter has aggressively labeled tweets from Trump that make baseless claims of fraud or misstate how the election total is counted.

Facebook has added similar labels, and earlier today pulled down a group of 300,000 people called “Stop the Steal,” which included claims of fraud with no backing evidence. Facebook also said it “saw worrying calls for violence from members of the group.”

TikTok said the block on those hashtags was part of its “normal moderation and approach to misinformation, hate speech, and other content that violates our guidelines.” Those two hashtags were removed yesterday because “content with these hashtags often violate our misleading information policy,” a spokesperson told The Verge.

Twitter has been “proactively monitoring the hashtag #StopTheSteal and related Tweets since Tuesday morning and are continuing to do so,” a spokesperson told The Verge. Twitter typically does not block hashtags, but it may prevent hashtags that violate the company’s content policies from trending. This hashtag, the spokesperson said, also contains “a significant amount of counter speech across the country.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.