The U.S. might not know who its next president is by the end of the night, but it will know whether social media channels are better equipped to handle an election than they did in 2016.
After Russian interference with divisive messaging and false claims in 2016, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have spent four years and billions of dollars to try to avoid a repeat and will be placing warning labels on posts that claim victories prematurely.
Any Twitter post with a misleading declaration will have a message posted to note that “Official sources may not have called the race when this was tweeted” or “Official sources called this election differently,” the company revealed Monday.
For Facebook, the pinned messages will be “votes are being counted” or “the winner of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election has not been projected.”
Twitter will base those decision on receiving projections from at least two established national news outlets. Facebook’s plan, unveiled on Sept. 3 by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, will use Reuters, Associated Press and six other major media outlets to establish projected results.
YouTube has not been as specific with its plans, but the Google-owned outlet previously revealed that it will also use informational labels and “results may not be final” messaging on election-related material. TikTok also will flag premature claims and direct users to Associated Press or an election guide.
The U.S. social media scene was caught off-guard in 2016 but, as much as 2020 has created unique scenarios, the companies’ eyes are wide open to foreign influence and the hyper-partisan attempts to influence voting and delegitimize results.
As much as this is Election Day for political leaders, it’s also a judgment day for social media companies.