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US Midterm Elections: Experts Say Misinformation on Facebook, Twitter Limited, Not Stopped

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Scores of posts on Twitter and Facebook challenged Democratic successes in US midterm elections without evidence on Wednesday, social media experts said, but the misinformation did not rise to the firestorm levels that followed President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020.

Researchers who study misinformation are closely monitoring online discussions following Tuesday’s voting, which will decide control of Congress. False narratives about fraud during the 2020 presidential race, promoted by then-President Donald Trump on Twitter, fueled a deadly siege of the Capitol. Trump was later banned from the social media service.

This time, far less prominent users on Twitter and Meta’s Facebook have been raising doubts about unsettled results in Arizona, citing voting machine problems and slow counting.

Overall, Republicans made modest gains nationwide but Democrats performed better than expected, and control of Congress hinged on a few races that remained too close to call as of Wednesday evening.

Some posts noted that Republicans won big in Florida after the state enacted new voting restrictions and claimed that the lack of such laws in other states resulted in fraud.

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“We are seeing people drumming up the idea that Democratic success was the result of widespread fraud, but they don’t have much to hang it on,” said the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which is monitoring social media.

So far, the conspiracy theories have not sparked major demonstrations or gone as viral as last time around.

“There’s a bunch of balls frozen up in the air and we’re just wondering when they are going to come down or if they have disappeared for good,” said Mike Caulfield, a research scientist at the University of Washington who is part of the Election Integrity Partnership consortium.

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The partnership said some Republican commentators may be holding back on spreading fraud claims in states such as Arizona because the party is expected to come out partially victorious in those places and such claims could undermine their positive results.

Efforts by election officials and online misinformation experts to push back on misleading narratives on social media appeared to have worked better than in 2020, also helping curtail the spread of false claims, partnership researchers said.

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Actions taken by social media services have been patchy.

Both Facebook and Twitter have systems to add context from fact-checking organizations to posts describing debunked election conspiracies. But none of this context appeared along several posts reviewed by Reuters that insinuated fraud.

Facebook also aims to restrict the spread of conspiratorial content by recommending it less, and problematic posts found by researchers had no more than a few hundred likes. But the company declined to comment on how well the feature worked this election, citing the ongoing ballot counting.

Common Cause, which monitors social media for voter suppression efforts, said on Tuesday that Twitter had taken no action on posts that the organization had flagged as inappropriate.

Twitter, now owned by billionaire Elon Musk, laid off roughly half its staff last week, including many employees responsible for curating and elevating credible information on the service.

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Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Twitter did suspend a user who on Tuesday posted a video claiming a masked man was “cheating in front of the cameras” at a polling station in Philadelphia.

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Seth Bluestein, city commissioner of Philadelphia, had tweeted that the video is false.

“I personally visited the East Passyunk Community Center polling place today,” Bluestein wrote. “The interior shot is not of a Philadelphia polling location, as you can see in these photos I just took tonight. This is another example of dangerous misinformation.”

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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What Are WhatsApp Polls and How Do You Use Them? All You Need to Know

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WhatsApp’s new features and updates which have rolled out over the past few months have made the messaging experience much better. Now, WhatsApp users can even create polls in personal and group chats to see what their friends and contacts think. Both iOS and Android users can use this feature. A poll could help take the opinions of group members on any topic or idea, or could be useful for making plans quickly. Just like your chats, the responses you send to a poll question will be protected by end-to-end encryption. At the moment, Telegram and Facebook Messenger allow group polls. You can easily start using this new WhatsApp feature on your smartphone.

Here is How to Create a WhatsApp Poll

Step 1: Update WhatsApp to the latest version

Step 2: Open the private or group chat in which you want to create a poll

Step 3: For Android, tap on the paper clip icon at the bottom of the screen. For iOS, select the plus (+) icon at the bottom of the screen.

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Step 4: Select ‘Poll’

Step 5: Type the question you want to ask, along with response options

Step 6: Finally, tap on ‘Send’ to share the poll

Up to twelve response options can be offered to recipients for each poll, and these are not time-bound. Users can also see the responses selected by others by tapping on ‘View votes’.

The Meta-owned messaging app has recently worked on several updates, rolling out new tools including the Call Link feature, the ability to message yourself, and Companion Mode. While some of these new features are not available to all users at the moment, WhatsApp does plan to make them accessible to everyone in the coming days. The most recent and talked-about feature apart from WhatsApp polls is Communities. These allow users to have separate groups under one “Community” to organize large conversations.

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“With Communities, we’re aiming to raise the bar for how organizations communicate with a level of privacy and security not found anywhere else. The alternatives available today require trusting apps or software companies with a copy of their messages – and we think they deserve the higher level of security provided by end-to-end encryption,” stated WhatsApp in a blog post.

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Elon Musk Calls Donald Trump’s Twitter Ban ‘Grave Mistake’, Condemns Violence

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Twitter’s ban on then President Donald Trump after January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters was a “grave mistake” that had to be corrected, Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Friday, although he also stated that incitement to violence would continue to be prohibited on Twitter.

“I’m fine with Trump not tweeting. The important thing is that Twitter correct a grave mistake in banning his account, despite no violation of the law or terms of service,” Musk said in a tweet. “Deplatforming a sitting President undermined public trust in Twitter for half of America.”

Last week, Musk announced the reactivation of Trump’s account after a slim majority voted in a Twitter poll in favor of reinstating Trump, who said, however, that he had no interest in returning to Twitter. He added he would stick with his own social media site Truth Social, the app developed by Trump Media & Technology Group.

Republican Trump, who 10 days ago announced he was running for election again in 2024, was banned on January 8, 2021, from Twitter under its previous owners.

At the time, Twitter said it permanently suspended him because of the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the Capitol. The results of the November 2020 presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden were being certified by lawmakers when the Capitol was attacked after weeks of false claims by Trump that he had won.

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Trump repeatedly used Twitter and other sites to falsely claim there had been widespread voter fraud, and had urged supporters to march on the Capitol in Washington to protest.

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The attack is being investigated by US prosecutors and a congressional committee.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday on Musk’s statement that Trump did not violate any Twitter terms of service when his account was suspended.

Earlier on Friday, Musk tweeted that calling for violence or incitement to violence on Twitter would result in suspension, after saying on Thursday that Twitter would provide a “general amnesty” to suspended accounts that had not broken the law or engaged in spam.

Replying to a tweet, Musk said it was “very concerning” that Twitter had taken no action earlier to remove some accounts related to the far-left Antifa movement. In response to another tweet asking if Musk considered the statement “trans people deserve to die” as worthy of suspension from the platform, the billionaire said: “Absolutely”.

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Change and chaos have marked Musk’s first few weeks as Twitter’s owner. He has fired top managers and it was announced that senior officials in charge of security and privacy had quit.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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WhatsApp Reportedly Testing Voice Status Update for iOS Beta: All Details

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WhatsApp, the Meta-owned instant messaging app, is reportedly working on a feature that will let iOS users share voice notes in their status updates. As of now, the users can only share pictures, videos and links in their WhatsApp status. However, once the new feature will be rolled out, WhatsApp users on iOS will be reportedly able to share voice notes or voice clips as well in their status updates on the app. According to the report, the messaging platform is testing the feature on iOS Beta for an upcoming update.

According to a report by WhatsApp development tracker WABetaInfo, WhatsApp users on iOS will be able to share a voice note of up to 30 seconds alongside text in their status updates, similar to what they can currently do in a WhatsApp chat.

The report has also shared a screengrab of the same, hinting at the upcoming feature, which shows a microphone icon on the bottom of the text status.

WhatsApp on iOS users will be required to click on the microphone icon and record their voice to upload it as their status update. They can even add text to it, if needed. It is worth noting that the voice status updates will only be shared with the people selected in the privacy settings. Also, these voice notes will always be end-to-end encrypted.

Not only iOS, but this ability is said to be also being tested in WhatsApp beta for Android’s upcoming update. As of now, this feature is still under development, so it would be very early to say anything.

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Meanwhile, WhatsApp recently rolled out WhatsApp Polls to users on both Android and iOS. The Polls feature was introduced alongside ‘Communities’, a feature that allows users to have separate groups under one umbrella to organise group conversations. WhatsApp Polls lets users create polls within the group with the ability to vote. Facebook Messenger and Telegram currently allow users to add group polls. WhatsApp’s poll feature will be protected by end-to-end encryption.

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