Social media companies are receding from their role as watchdogs against political misinformation, abandoning their most aggressive efforts to police online falsehoods in a trend expected to profoundly affect the 2024 presidential election.
An array of circumstances is fueling the retreat: Mass layoffs at Meta and other major tech companies have gutted teams dedicated to promoting accurate information online. An aggressive legal battle over claims that the Biden administration pressured social media platforms to silence certain speech has blocked a key path to detecting election interference.
And X CEO Elon Musk has reset industry standards, rolling back strict rules against misinformation on the site formerly known as Twitter. In a sign of Musk’s influence, Meta briefly considered a plan last year to ban all political advertising on Facebook. The company shelved it after Musk announced plans to transform rival Twitter into a haven for free speech, according to two people familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters.
The retrenchment comes just months ahead of the 2024 primaries, as GOP front-runner Donald Trump continues to rally supporters with false claims that election fraud drove his 2020 loss to Joe Biden. Multiple investigations into the election have revealed no evidence of fraud, and Trump now faces federal criminal charges connected to his efforts to overturn the election. Still, YouTube, X and Meta have stopped labeling or removing posts that repeat Trump’s claims, even as voters increasingly get their news on social media. [Continue reading…]