Election Misinformation

Definition: Incorrect information about the mechanics of an election that can cause viewers to be disenfranchised.
Legal Status:
Can be illegal
Platform ToS:
Violates Policy
Victim Visibility:
Inherent in Content
TSPA Abuse Type:

Election misinformation refers to false or misleading information specifically related to the electoral process. Unlike general political misinformation, which can encompass a broad range of subjects and opinions, election misinformation is narrower in scope and often easier to fact-check. It usually contradicts objective facts, such as the date an election will take place, the requirements for voter eligibility, or whether a particular candidate is alive or deceased. In most democracies, intentional attempts to disenfranchise voters through false claims are serious criminal offenses.

Social media platforms and other online networks play a critical role in enabling the spread of election misinformation. These platforms have algorithms and distribution networks that, when they are content-neutral, disseminate information without consideration of its truthfulness. While this is effective for spreading valid information, it also makes these platforms susceptible to the rapid distribution of misinformation, which can disenfranchise voters by feeding them incorrect details about how, when, or where to vote.

Design thinking offers limited solutions in this context. Platform characteristics like user interface or community guidelines have only marginal capacity to prevent the spread of incorrect info. Limitations on the availability of tools that support scaled abuse (like APIs) may have some impact, but it isn't clear that scale is at the heart of this issue. Instead the key distinction between election information and misinformation has to lie in content analysis, since the only difference between a "get out the vote" campaign, and "get out the vote a week late" campaign is the date on which they encourage people to go to the polls. The focus should thus be on identifying and removing or suppressing false information related to elections, as the platform's structural elements are generally not the primary contributors to the success of misinformation campaigns of this sort.

What features facilitate Election Misinformation?

Recommendation gives a megaphone to election misinformation, increasing the volume of disenfranchisement and disillusionment it causes.
A platform proactively inserting content into a user's view.

How can platform design prevent Election Misinformation?

Flatten Virality Curves
Cap the attention a user can receive by a multiple of their prior reach.
Media Provenance
Record and display the chain of custody and original source for media.
Authoritative sources of information can inoculate users against misinformation, making them more skeptical of election news they may encounter.
Mix in Authoritative Content
Add authoritative content from trusted partners on users' subscribed topics.
Is something missing, or could it be better?