As Midterms Loom, Meta CEO shifts focus away from elections

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has made securing the 2020 US election a top priority. He regularly meets with the election team, which includes more than 300 people from across his company, to prevent false information from being published on social media. He asked civil rights leaders for advice on maintaining the right to vote.

The main election team on Facebook, which was renamed Meta last year, has been disbanded. About 60 people are now focused on the main election, while others share time Of them on other projects. They met with another executive, not Zuckerberg. And the administration has not spoken to civil rights groups recently, although some He called for more attention to the November midterm elections.

Electoral protection is not the number one concern of Zuckerberg, four Meta staffers who are aware of the situation. Instead, he focuses on turning his company into a provider of metaverse-rich worlds, which he sees as the next frontier of growing, people, who are not allowed to speak in public.

The shift in focus on Meta, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, may have far-reaching consequences as belief in the US electoral system reaches a breaking point. A January 6 riot hearing has suggested the election could be Impossible. And dozens of political candidates are running this November for false proposals. That former President Donald J. Trump was abducted in the 2020 election, with social media platforms continuing to be an important means To access American voters.

Election misinformation is also prevalent online. This month, “2000 Mules,” a film that derailed the 2020 election stolen from Trump, was widely shared on Facebook and Instagram, garnering more than 430,000 interactions, according to an analysis by The New York Times. In a post about the film, commentators said they anticipate election fraud this year and warned against using postal and electronic voting machines.

Other social media companies have also pulled some of their election focus back. Twitter, which stopped labeling and deleting inaccurate information about the March 2021 election, was interested in selling $ 44 billion to Elon Musk, three employees familiar with the situation said. Mr Musk suggested he needed less rules about what could and could not come down to the service.

Katie Harbath, chief executive of Anchor Change Consulting, a former election policy manager at Meta, said: “The company should be prepared to defend the integrity of the next few years, not to back down,”

Meta, which along with Twitter blocked Mr. Trump from leaving the platform after the January 6, 2021, riots at the US Capitol, has been working for years to curb political lies on its website. Tom Reynolds, a spokesman for Meta, said the company had “implemented a comprehensive approach to how to vote on our platform since before the 2020 US election and through the global election dozens of times since then.”

According to Reynolds, Meta has hundreds of people across 40 teams focused on election work. He said that with each election, the company has “formed teams and technologies and developed partnerships to remove manipulative advertising, limit the dissemination of false information and maintain industry-leading transparency on political and page advertising.”

Trenton Kennedy, Twitter spokesman, said the company was “continuing our efforts to protect the integrity of the electoral discussion and to inform the public about our approach.” For the medium term, Twitter has tagged a list of political candidates and provided information boxes on how to vote in local elections.

The way Meta and Twitter react to elections has implications beyond the US, due to the global nature of their platforms. In Brazil, where general elections are being held in October, President Jair Bolsonaro recently raised doubts about the country’s electoral process. Latvia, Bosnia and Slovenia also hold elections in October.

Sahar Massachi, executive director of the Think Tank Integrity Institute and a former Facebook employee, said, “People in the United States are almost certainly keeping up with Rolls-Royce when it comes to honesty on any platform, especially the US election.”

Facebook’s role in the election could be distorted after 2016, when Russian authorities used the site to spread inflammatory content and divide American voters in the US presidential election. In 2018, Zuckerberg told Congress that electoral stability was his top priority.

“The most important thing I’m interested in right now is to make sure no one interferes in the 2018 global election,” he said.

Since then, social media has become effective in thwarting foreign attempts to disseminate false information in the United States, election experts say. But Facebook and Instagram are also fighting conspiracy theories and other political lies on their websites, they said.

In November 2019, Zuckerberg hosted a banquet at his home for civil rights leaders and spoke on the phone and held a Zoom meeting with them, promising to make the election the main focus.

He also met with the election team on a regular basis. More than 300 employees from various product and engineering teams have been asked to create a new system to detect and delete inaccurate information. Facebook has also been active in eliminating toxic content, banning the posting of QAnon and conspiracy theories in October 2020.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $ 400 million to local governments to fund polling staff, pay polling stations, provide personal protective equipment and other administrative expenses.

The week before the November 2020 election, Meta also stopped all political campaigns to limit the spread of lies.

But while it’s successful – the company has kept foreign election interference off the stage – it struggles with how to deal with Trump, who uses his Facebook account to spread false allegations of voter fraud. In the aftermath of the January 6 clashes, Facebook banned Mr. Trudeau. He is eligible for rehabilitation in January 2023.

Last year, Frances Haugen, an employee of Facebook turned whistle-blower, filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing the company of undermining the security features of the election too soon after the 2020 election.

In October, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would focus on the metaverse. The company has restructured, with additional resources devoted to the development of the online world.

Meta has also changed its election team. The number of elected employees is now about 60, down from more than 300 in 2020, according to staff. Hundreds of others attended the election conference and became part of it Cross-functional teams, where they work on other issues. The division that created virtual reality software, a key component of the metaverse, has expanded.

Zuckerberg no longer meets weekly with those who focus on election security, though. Even if he gets their report. Instead, they met with Nick Clegg, president of Meta Global.

Many civil rights groups say they have noticed meta-changes in priorities. Zuckerberg is not engaging in conversations with them like he used to be, and not other senior Meta executives, they said.

NAACP Chairman Derrick Johnson, speaking to Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Meta’s chief executive, said ahead of the 2020 election: “I’m concerned. “It seems out of sight, out of mind.” (Sandberg has announced that she will be leaving Meta this spring.)

Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, another civil rights group, said Sandberg and Zuckerberg had asked his organization to propose a 2020 plan to thwart fraudulent election data. He said their advice was largely ignored, and he had not communicated with the two executives for more than half a year. He is now in contact with Meta’s civil rights vice president, Roy Austin.

Meta says Austin meets quarterly with civil rights leaders, adding that it is the only major social media company with civil rights executives.

Last May, 130 civil rights organizations, progressives and public interest groups wrote articles. To Mr. Zuckerberg and Chief Executive Officer of YouTube, Twitter, Snap and other platforms. They demanded that they withdraw their allegations about Trump’s victory in the 2020 election and Stop spreading false news about the midterm elections.

Yosef Getachew, director of the Common Cause non-profit public advocacy group, which the group studied for false 2020 election data on social media, said the company did not respond.

“The big lie is in the middle and in the middle of nowhere that many scammers are using it to announce in advance that the 2022 election will be stolen,” he said, pointing to recent tweets from politicians. Michigan And Arizona Those who lie that the dead go to vote for the Democrats. “Now is not the time to stop enforcing big lies.”

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