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Elon Musk Is Spreading Election Misinformation, But X Fact-Checkers Are No More| GuyWhoKnowsThings

In the spring of 2020, when President Donald J. Trump wrote messages on Twitter warning that greater reliance on mail-in voting would lead to a “rigged election,” the platform made a correction, debunking their claims.

“Learn about voting by mail,” one content label read. “Experts say mail-in voting is rarely linked to voter fraud,” the hyperlinked article states.

This month, Elon Musk, who has since purchased Twitter and rebranded it as illegal voting by non-citizens.

This time, there were no fact checks. And the X algorithm, under Musk's direct control, helped posts reach large audiences, in some cases attracting many millions of views.

Since taking control of the site, Musk has dismantled the platform's system for flagging false election content, arguing that it amounted to election interference.

Now, his early election year attacks on a tried-and-true voting method are raising alarm bells among civil rights lawyers, election administrators and Democrats. They worry that his control over the large social media platform gives him enormous ability to reignite doubts about the American electoral system that were so prevalent in the run-up to the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021.

As Trump’s victory in New Hampshire moved the race closer to the general election, the Biden campaign for the first time criticized Musk directly for his handling of election content on X: “It is deeply irresponsible to spread false information and sow distrust. about how our elections operate,” Biden's campaign manager, Julie Chávez Rodríguez, said this week in statements to The New York Times.

“It's even more dangerous coming from the owner of a social media platform,” he added.

What angers the Biden campaign is delighting pro-Trump Republicans and others who describe the old Twitter as part of a government-controlled censorship regime that helped Biden in 2020. Under a system now in dispute At the Supreme Court, government officials alerted platforms about posts they considered dangerous, although it was up to the companies to act or not.

“Oh, boo hoo,” said Harmeet K. Dhillon, a lawyer whose firm represents McCarthy. Trump said of Democrats' complaints. EM. Dhillon has demanded to the company for suspending the account of an election-denying customer after receiving a notice from California election officials, the type of government interaction that Musk has repudiated. He noted that the platform was now “a much better place for conservatives” and said of Musk that “he's great.”

X did not respond to a request for comment. Earlier this week, his CEO, Linda Yaccarinowrote in a blog post that the platform had expanded its alternative approach to fact-checking misinformation, through crowdsourcing.”community notes” written by users.

There were no such notes in Musk's voting messages. But they were in a post that made the wild claim that Biden won the New Hampshire primary solely by vote stuffing.

The freer flow of false election information is not the only perceived threat to elections based on social platforms, with the rise of artificial intelligence becoming more realistic. deepfakes and a growing acceptance of political violence.

The fact that the Biden campaign is highlighting Musk points to the unique role he is already playing in the 2024 election.

No major media owner in the modern era has used their national platform to insert themselves so personally and aggressively into an American election.

While Rupert Murdoch's conservative media empire, which includes Fox News, has exerted unparalleled influence over American politics for decades, it has largely remained behind the scenes, generally leaving its editors, producers and hosts to determine the details of the coverage.

And while Facebook is bigger than X, its owner, Mark Zuckerberg, answers to shareholders and answers to advertisers. He has tried to avoid being drawn personally into the political fray.

Musk intervened a few days after taking possession of the site and urged his followers to vote republican. He has been open in his disdain for Biden, whose White House has sometimes answered in species.

On the other hand, Musk has no concerns for the shareholders of X, which he took public at the end of 2022. He has fired the advertiser. complaints or calls to block content that could degrade trust in democracy.

Exhibiting a distinctive form of pure 21st century media power, X has also strangled and punished Musk's perceived competitors and enemies while reinstating accounts that were previously banned for content violations, some related to the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. The platform's algorithm, which dictates how posts circulate on the site, now also offers additional promotion to those who pay to be “verified,” including previously banned accounts.

Among them is @KanekoaTheGreat, a once-banned QAnon influencer who this month circulated a 32-page dossier promoted by Trump that chronicled a barrage of false charges about the 2020 elections.

It got almost 22 million views.

In 2020, Twitter's “election integrity center” that had an open line with outside groups and political campaigns, either removing or adding context to posts with misleading information about voting.

Posts with false information about when and where to vote, for example, would be removed. Those with misleading information about mail-in voting, like Trump's, would receive notices directing users to alerts and fact-check articles.

As Trump and his allies escalate their attacks on mail-in voting, a method favored by Democrats during the coronavirus pandemic, Twitter expanded its policy of removing or labeling statements that “undermine faith” in elections.

These measures were very effective. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and the other major platforms, which had similar measures, were also inundated with electoral lies, and faced criticism in the months after the January 6 attack they did not do enough.

Agreeing with critics who say the measures led to unfair and unilateral censorship, Mr. Musk said last fall he cut the integrity team because it was in fact “undermining election integrity.” And he added: “They are gone.” (His CEO of him, Mrs. Yaccarino, quickly disputed that characterization, saying the work would continue and even expand).

Maya Wiley, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, who communicated regularly with the platforms. in 2020, said Musk's decision had a domino effect. “People like Facebook and others have also been given a free pass. Youtube,” she said.

X is more forgiving policy still addresses posts that incite violence, include verifiably false information about voting locations and dates, or that mislead about eligibility laws, “including identification or citizenship requirements.”

Musk's recent posts seem to go against that rule.

On January 10, he responded to a post about the recent influx of undocumented immigrants by writing, falsely, that “illegals are not prevented from voting in federal elections. “This was a surprise to me.” A couple of days earlier, Musk implied that Biden and the Democrats were being lax on immigration because “they are importing voters,” an echo of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory which Trump was sharing around the same time.

USA law prohibits non-citizens from voting in federal elections, under threat of jail and deportation. Cases of illegal voting by non-citizens They are rare.

Musk has also raised broader questions about the US electoral system. On January 8, he wrote that voters in the United States “do not need a government-issued ID to vote and can mail in their ballot. This is crazy.” The post was viewed 59 million times.

More than half of states require voters to present some form of identification at the polls, and most do not require signatures, affidavits, or dates of birth; federal law requires voter ID verification when registering.

In November, he heard a story about considerable evidence of Widespread absentee voting fraud in Bridgeport, Connecticut.and wrote: “The only question is how common it is.”

Where is Bridgeport? the problem is real – enough for a judge to order a redo of the Democratic primary – is also strange. Voting by mail has been used for years and, with various safeguards, has proven to be extremely reliable. with bipartisan acceptanceat least before Trump intensified criticism of the method.

Mr. Trump could not provide evidence of any significant fraud in any of his lawsuits challenging his 2020 loss.

That hasn't stopped Musk from adding to the constant murmur of doubt about the voting system among millions of Americans, contributing to an already tense climate for poll workers as Trump repeats his stolen 2024 election lies, according to some election officials. saying.

“It bubbles and keeps the temperature higher,” said Stephen Richer, recorder of Maricopa County, Arizona, a hot zone for election conspiracy theories. Richer, a Republican and longtime admirer of Musk's business achievements, added: “Whether it's President Trump or Mr. Musk talking about this and keeping it top of mind, that can potentially make our lives more challenging. .”

The Biden campaign shares that concern. “We will continue to expose this recklessness as we fulfill President Biden's commitment to protect our elections,” said Ms. Chávez Rodríguez.

However, that's the only option the campaign has: the grievance line between the campaign and the platform is dead.

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