The 2016 US Presidential election saw the use of fake news to concentrate polarising content in swing states, and to intimidate certain groups of people into not showing up to vote. Under the extreme pressure of the 2020 Presidential elections, is social media being used to target the disenfranchised in swing states?
Yes, social media is being used to target the disenfranchised in swing statesShow moreShow less
Social media is being used to target the disenfranchised in swing states. Polarising content is being used for voter suppression and foreign states are influencing the 2020 election.
In the run up to the 2016 US presidential election, operatives of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company associated with Putin, posed as Americans by posting messages and ads on social media. They used practices like directing people to vote via text, which is not even a valid option anywhere in the US.
Average levels of misinformation via social media including Twitter and news platforms were higher in swing states than in uncontested states during the 2016 presidential campaign. This holds even when weighted for the relative size of the user population in each state.
The Trump campaign team also incorporated a strategy to deter millions of African-Americans from voting in 2016. This included a category named ‘Deterrence’, which was later described by Trump’s chief data scientist as containing people that the administration hoped would not show up to vote.
A study of more than 16,000 Twitter users found that only a small fraction of fake news spread during the 2016 presidential election. Only a small number saw the majority of misinformation, and those that saw it were typically older and politically conservative. Therefore the effect of fake news, and in particular its effect on swing states may have been less pervasive on social media during the election than originally thought.