US presidential election: Twitter to flag tweets claiming victory prematurely

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In 2016, Russia developed a simple, effective playbook to undermine U.S. elections with disinformation on social media. Four years later, Americans are using the same playbook on each other. (New York Times)

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Twitter and Facebook reaffirmed plans to flag tweets and posts, including those of presidential candidates, who claim a premature US election victory, as worries persist that a clear result would not emerge till well after Tuesday (Nov 3).

Reiterating previously announced policy, Twitter said on Monday it will require any tweet from some accounts declaring victory to cite either an announcement from state election officials, or a public projection from at least two authoritative, national news outlets that make independent election calls, the company said in updated guidelines to its election policies. It selected the seven acceptable race-calling outlets.

Tweets that include premature claims of victory will be labelled and direct people to Twitter's official US election page. The kind of accounts that would be flagged would be accounts with US 2020 candidate labels, US-based accounts with more than 100,000 followers and tweets that have 25,000 responses such as "likes", or retweets.

Facebook followed with a reminder of its own similar guidelines, adding that it will also track "potentially dangerous activity" akin to the swarming of a Biden campaign bus by Trump supporters in pickups over the weekend in Texas.

The moves are a response to increasing worries that an election result would not be reflected on Tuesday, as states take longer to count an unprecedented number of mail-in and absentee ballots.

Twitter's policy was updated on Monday after reports that President Donald Trump privately told associates he intends to declare victory if the results show him ahead, even if the outcome is not yet known.

Mr Trump denied the report, but also criticised the counting of late-arriving ballots as "terrible" and said his campaign intended to fight it.

"My response is the president is not going to steal this election," Democrat Joe Biden told reporters during a campaign stop in Philadelphia.

News networks make calls on presidential races on Election Day even as states finish counting results based on statistical analysis of the results still outstanding. But this year, it is expected to take longer because of a surge of mail-in ballots, some of which will be counted after Tuesday.

Twitter cited the following news outlets as acceptable race callers: the Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, FOX News, DecisionDeskHQ, and NBC News.

While Democrats have urged supporters to vote early and via mail, Mr Trump has urged his supporters to vote in person. As a result, Democrats have a substantial lead in early voting, Republicans expect a larger proportion of their votes to be cast on Tuesday.

On Monday, Philadelphia officials said it "will easily take several days" to count the city's large number of mail-in ballots, potentially delaying statewide election results from Pennsylvania that could decide a close presidential race.

Twitter said it would also remove tweets meant to incite interference with the election process or results, such as through violent action. The rule applies to all congressional races in addition to the presidential election.

In October, Facebook also said it will not accept any new political ads in the week before the election and will reject ads that claim victory before official results.

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