The spread of disinformation on social media was a significant concern during the last two US elections. However, in 2020, the disinformation came from sources closer to home.
Social media companies were better prepared to prevent the spread of disinformation from foreign sources this year, according to Alex Stamos Director of Stanford Internet Observatory.
However, Americans calling election results into question and claiming victory while votes were still being counted, generated a new and problematic disinformation phenomenon domestically.
Speaking at an event recently, former Facebook security chief Stamos said that in previous elections disinformation involved bad actors. They would intentionally mislead voters on how to cast their ballots or by trying to discourage them from voting altogether.
In 2016, disruption caused by disinformation during the election sparked an official investigation into foreign interference by Special Council Robert Mueller.
The investigation from 2016 found that social media disinformation campaigns were employed to sow discord in the US political system.
This year, Americans began calling the election results into question themselves. Various and unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud spread mistrust in the US electoral system, which stemmed from domestic sources.
While technology companies did a better job of preventing foreign disinformation campaigns, YouTube has been criticised. Stamos said the video streaming company had the least comprehensive policies around election disinformation.
The company was particularly challenged by the way influencers used live streaming to make claims about the integrity of the election. Apparently, live video is extremely difficult to fact-check.
YouTube has responded to the issue. The website claims its policies prohibits content from misleading viewers about where and how to vote. It also disallows content alleging widespread voter fraud.
However, the platform has caused controversy for allowing some content to remain on the site while election officials worked to finalise the counting of ballots.
For example, content including contentious views discrediting the outcome and processes of the election.