This election, the social apps have a plan

Too bad none of them actually disincentivize the behavior that got us here in the first place.

Earlier today, Twitter announced ABC News, Associated Press, CNN, CBS News, Decision Desk HQ, Fox News and NBC News as the seven news outlets it will source to help determine whether a race is officially called in tomorrow’s election. According to Sara Fischer at Axios, if a reporter or any Twitter user tweets a result without citing one fo the select outlets, Twitter will attach the following label: “Official sources may not have called the race when this tweeted. Find out more.” and link to the social app’s elections information hub. If one of the seven outlets tweets from its main handle a result before another outlet from the group of seven confirm it, Twitter will forgo the label. This comes after the tech company said it would require either an announcement from state election officials or a public projection from at least two authoritative, national news outlets that make independent calls about the race before letting tweets about the results go by unlabeled. 

Facebook has deployed dozens of employees to its election-day “war room” to identify efforts to destabilize the election. At The New York Times, Mike Isaac, Kate Conger and Daisuke Wakabayashi report Facebook’s app will also look different too: It plans to add a notification at the top of News Feeds informing users that no winner has been chosen until election results are verified by news outlets like Reuters and the AP. Facebook also plans to activate special tools to slow the spread of inflammatory posts and will suspend all political ads from circulating on its flagship app and Instagram for at least a week to reduce misinformation about the outcome of the election.

YouTube is taking a business-as-usual approach, per NYT’s Isaac, Conger and Wakabayashi: Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said that YouTube will not operate a “war room” and that most decisions to keep or remove videos will be clear and that the usual processes for making those decisions will be sufficient. Senior decision-makers at the video-sharing app will make a group call for issues that require more nuance.

Meanwhile, as votes are counted and states are called tomorrow, Donald Trump will have the White House on lockdown. “Crews will build a ‘non-scalable’ fence to secure the WH complex, Ellipse and Lafayette Square,” NBC News White House correspondent Geoff Bennett tweeted. "250 National Guardsman have been put on standby, reporting to Metro Police officials.

The Trump campaign planned to host an election-night party at his D.C. hotel, but the city has banned gatherings of more than 50 people to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. “So we have a hotel. I don’t know if it’s shut down, if you’re allowed to use it or not,” Trump said. “But I know the mayor [Muriel Bowser] has shut down Washington, D.C. And if that’s the case, we’ll probably stay here or pick another location. I think it’s crazy. Washington, D.C., is shut down. Can you imagine?” (Washington D.C. is not shut down, by the way.)

This is the president’s modus operandi: Create conditions that force leaders to act then attack the response as an assault on the liberties of his base or himself. We’re in this situation because of how ineptly he’s handled a pandemic that turned public health recommendations into partisan symbols. We’re here because he’s attempted to delegitimize mail-in voting because it’s the method of choice for most folks who want to vote his sorry ass out of office. We’re here due to his failure to govern because his party represents a declining share of the country’s population and their policy ideas suck.

These measures feel insufficient because they fail to really disincentivize the behavior that created the collective clusterfuck we find ourselves. On Sunday, Jonathan Swan at Axios reported that Donald Trump confided to his inner circle his plans to declare victory on Tuesday night if it looks like he’s “ahead” in the polls, even if the outcome is not yet determined. Do you think Trump is bothered by a barely-there label disputing his lies? All it does is fuel his party’s bogus censorship claims. 

No social app has to give anyone — even the president of the United States — carte blanche to say whatever they want to say under the guise of public interest if it endangers the well-being of our democracy and their policy-abiding users. On top of that, Trump has the entire executive branch at his disposal to execute his communications strategy. Let’s say social apps introduced a policy that issued bad actors like Trump and the extremist wing of his party a warning for the first instance of misinformation and disabled their accounts for 72 hours after a second offense, it still wouldn’t be censorship as spelled out in the First Amendment. It would just piss off a bunch of conservatives, which is what these tech companies are really trying to avoid.

All it will take tomorrow is one reckless retweet or loose-cannon thread from Trump’s feed to undercut these policies, some of which have been in development since the end of the last election. And then what? Reporters will circle the wagons to break and make news out of the chaos. Politicians will point fingers at everyone but themselves. And citizen-users will attempt to figure out the real from the fake. In normal times, this would be a lot to take in. (We’ve entered the phase of the election where the creative class’s burning question is no longer “Did you vote yet?!” and now “How will you manage your anxiety on Election Day?!”) It’s especially discouraging to think about enduring these circumstances on such a consequential day for our democracy. But at least we’ll have those labeled social posts to give us comfort, I guess?


Read All About It

Edward Enninful at British Vogue on Beyoncé:

Although Beyoncé prefers to let her work do the talking (as she has this summer, with her extraordinary visual album Black Is King), she knew this was a moment to speak. And speak she does, on everything from the recent racial and social justice movements, to her personal legacy, fascinating creative process and much-loved fashion label, Ivy Park, as well as life at home with husband Jay-Z, and children, Blue Ivy, eight, and three-year-old twins, Sir and Rumi.

Throughout it all, Beyoncé told me she had a very important goal: she wanted to have fun. Fun can feel like a radical act right now, but, at 39, she is a woman in her prime, happy in herself, happy in her body – and able to claim the power of that. In the middle of the madness that has been 2020, you will see that, above all, Beyoncé wants us to remember the rebelliousness and impact of a simple concept: joy.

Alexandra Mondalek at Business of Fashion on how to work with TikTok talent:

Fashion brands have struggled with how to use TikTok, even as the platform has grown into a juggernaut rivalling Snapchat and Instagram for young consumers’ attention. Successful campaigns tend to cast a wide net and allow creators to do what they want with a hashtag or a product. That can be difficult to accept for brands used to stage-managing every aspect of their marketing. But the sooner brands let go of the playbook that works on other platforms and adopt TikTok best practices, the better off they’ll be, experts say.

Alex Seitz-Wald at NBC News on our “unbelievably stressed-out country”:

Recent research by the American Psychological Association found 68 percent of Americans say the 2020 election is a significant source of stress in their lives — a sizable increase from the 52 percent who said the same in 2016. And the feeling is across the political divide, with 76 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Independents reporting election-related stress. “This has been a year unlike any other in living memory,” said APA CEO Arthur Evans Jr.

Zak Cheney-Rice at Intelligencer on the GOP’s transformation into the “party of men”:

Whether or not Trump loses reelection and his party cedes control of Congress to the Democrats, the GOP will be left with many of the same problems it had before he was elected: Its major policy ideas are unpopular, it seems unable to win a majority of votes in national elections, and it is functionally the party of white people, who make up a declining share of the U.S. population. To the extent that these issues are determinative — Republicans have certainly been able to win despite them — emerging trends suggest a path forward: becoming a multiracial men’s party.

Prachi Gupta at Jezebel on the Kamala Harris and the “complicated, burdened joy of representation”:

While I agree with Harris, my ability to see myself in her identity has also prompted important questions about how we define representation and what it means to be represented. Harris’s candidacy illuminates the complicated reality of how Black and brown women are viewed as political symbols—to the left, as progress, and to the right, as threats—appearing always, especially if they are ambitious, as risky. Like many Black and brown women, my feelings are mixed: I am struggling with how to balance my excitement over the historic nature of her candidacy with my desire for radical political change, underscored by a resentment that I exist in a political system where representation is so sparse that I am expected to feel grateful or satisfied with having a candidate who shares my identity—or the assumption that, because I share in someone’s identity, we hold the same values.

Richard L. Hasen at Slate on why Trump can’t just “declare victory”:

The strategy is not going to work. The networks and news organizations are prepared for this, and Americans have learned to discount anything the president says. Most are inoculated against his lies about voting. And assuming there are no major foul-ups in how the rest of Election Day voting goes, it is hard to imagine any legal strategy that will lead courts to order a halt to the counting of ballots that have arrived before Election Day (even if there could still be litigation over late-arriving ballots). So far, all of the Trump and Republican suits aimed at stopping the easing of voting rules during the pandemic on grounds of a risk of fraud have failed miserably, and any postelection attempt on these grounds should fail too.


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