US presidential election: networks are preparing for catastrophic scenarios

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What if Donald Trump, in case of defeat, tries to claim on social networks that he has won? This is one of the many problematic scenarios that Facebook and Twitter, among others, are actively preparing, just over months away from the presidential election.

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According to New York TimesFacebook boss Mark Zuckerberg holds daily meetings with other officials about the risks his platforms could be used to challenge the results.

The US president regularly questions the reliability of postal voting, a method popular in the United States, and crucial during a pandemic.

“We have already done a series of emergency drills and simulations to imagine possible situations and make sure we are prepared to deal with them,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s director of cybersecurity regulations, said recently during of a press conference.

It presented a new information center on the ballot, a kind of one-stop-shop on the model of the one created on the coronavirus, to provide reliable information in real time.

Twitter, for its part, is considering the possibility of the election period lasting well beyond November 3, until the inauguration of the president-elect in January.

“We are learning from all recent polls around the world to improve our work on election integrity,” Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, a network vice president, said on Friday.

As a sign of the exceptional stake of these preparations, the rival platforms are actively collaborating to avoid reproducing the scandals of 2016.

The previous presidential election had been marked by disguised influence campaigns, mainly orchestrated from Russia.

Actors in the technology sector regularly meet with the US Federal Police (FBI) and other authorities to thwart this kind of manipulation.

But the situation could get complicated if ever the president himself were to cause confusion.

“Facebook is walking a tightrope,” explained to theAFP Adam Chiara, professor of communication at the University of Hartford. “Their basic principle is to encourage freedom of expression, not to restrict it.”

Facebook and Twitter have already cracked down, pinning briefing notes on Donald Trump’s posts on postal voting, deemed misleading and dangerous for the smooth running of the ballot.

Unlike Twitter, Facebook has so far allowed political ads, but could ban them after the election if ever if the group deemed it necessary to fight disinformation, according to the New York Times.

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