New Coalition Wants to Help in Fight Against Election Misinformation

In this Aug. 5, 2020, file photo, vote-by-mail ballots are shown in sorting trays at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton, Wash., south of Seattle.

In this Aug. 5, 2020, file photo, vote-by-mail ballots are shown in sorting trays at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton, Wash., south of Seattle. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

The Election Integrity Partnership consists of university researchers and others. Local election officials are among those the partnership is hoping to assist in the weeks ahead.

With Election Day now less than three months away, national security officials and outside experts are warning that the nation needs to be on guard against attempts by Russia and other foreign countries to interfere with the contest.

One set of concerns centers on social media posts, on online platforms like Facebook and Twitter, containing false or misleading information meant to confuse voters about election procedures, drive down turnout, or stoke false narratives about voter fraud. 

For state and local officials who oversee the more than 10,000 election administration districts around the U.S., dealing with this type of disinformation and misinformation can be daunting. 

A new partnership that involves universities and other research entities aims to help.

The Election Integrity Partnership consists of Stanford University’s Internet Observatory and Program on Democracy and the Internet, the company Graphika, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab and the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public.

This election season, the partnership will seek to provide government agencies, civil society organizations and social media companies with real-time assistance identifying and responding to election-related misinformation and disinformation campaigns.

"Voters this fall will look to social media for real-time election information at an unprecedented rate,” Elena Cryst, assistant director of the Stanford Internet Observatory, said on Wednesday during a webinar about the project.

"We need an independent and nongovernmental partnership with the capability to review and analyze perceived attempts at election mis- and disinformation online,” she added.

The group plans to mainly focus on content interfering in three areas: procedures (like posts containing wrong information about how to submit a mail-in ballot), participation (such as false posts about long lines at polling stations) and, lastly, false claims of voter fraud.

Kate Starbird, a professor in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington, said the project’s goals are twofold: to both disrupt campaigns that might be spreading faulty information around the election and to let the public know about this information so that they’re not manipulated by it.

A claim’s severity will guide whether it warrants investigation, explained Isabella García-Camargo, product manager for the partnership and a graduate student at Stanford.

So, for instance, a generic claim like “the election is being stolen” might not be scrutinized. But a tweet with a false video of ballots being burned, or that contains forged documents, would be a priority.

People working with the groups that are part of the partnership will attempt to detect these sorts of posts themselves. But other stakeholders, like government officials and civil society organizations, will also be able to submit “tickets” flagging suspect content. 

Staff with the partnership would investigate this content and possibly bring it to the attention of social media companies who could remove malicious posts as necessary.

García-Camargo gave an example from 2019 where a Twitter user made a false claim in a tweet that ballots in Kentucky were being destroyed. Twitter removed that post but images of it continued to circulate online in other posts after it was taken down.

In that case, García-Camargo said a local election official was left sifting through Twitter to see how widely the claim had spread and to figure out possible next steps for responding.

This is the type of situation where the partnership might be able to provide assistance—assigning a researcher to track the post and possibly alerting other social media companies, like Facebook, if the false claim spills onto their platforms as well.

“We're bringing to the table both technical and analytical capacity to create content that's not currently available to election officials or civil society partners,” García-Camargo said.

The project will not involve crowd-sourcing, where anyone in the public can submit a ticket. One reason is that the groups that are leading it don’t have enough staff for that sort of approach.

Camille Francois, research and analysis director at Graphika, said the purpose of the project is not to simply remove as much questionable content from the internet as possible.

“This isn't what we're trying to do,” she said. “It's not a race to take down. But it is a race to rigorous, fast analysis to make sure that everybody who’s flagging has the ability to get a quick answer and things that are indeed problematic can be enforced against."

The partnership is not receiving government funds and has no plans to provide governments with any exclusive or confidential information, its organizers say. But the groups involved directly are collaborating with the National Association of State Election Directors and the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center.

García-Camargo said the groups are still figuring out some of the logistics for how they will coordinate with state and local officials. “We've already done some initial engagements with certain states,” she said. “We're very excited to open this up to all the rest of the states.”

Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Improved Water Quality and More Field Time Due to a 97% Reduction in Office Admin Work
Marin County, CA, USA
Integrated city systems, unified data, & automation drive 316% increase in field efficiency
Seattle, WA, USA
Orlando Protects Citizens During Heavy Rain Events by Optimizing Water Data Intelligence
Orlando, FL, USA

NEXT STORY: Survey: More Than Half of Tech Employees ‘Dread’ Work Each Morning

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.