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US 2020 election: Social media’s nightmare situation

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By James Clayton
North America know-how reporter

picture copyrightGetty Images/Twitter/Facebook
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There’s an election situation that’s giving social media firm bosses nightmares.

The interval between the polls closing and the declared end result often takes just a few hours.

But this time it is prone to take days – maybe even weeks. Millions of postal votes will take time to course of.

Social media firms imagine this era – of declare and counterclaim – may push the US over the sting.

If each Donald Trump and Joe Biden declare themselves the winner, there are fears of violence between the already polarised communities of the US.

And all of this may very well be performed out on social media.

A US Postal Service worker puts mail in a letter boxpicture copyrightEPA

Three weeks in the past, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg mentioned he was “worried”.

On Facebook he wrote: “With our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or even weeks to be finalised, there could be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country.”

In what could be a primary, a number of of the Big Tech firms have been working collectively to “scenario plan” totally different outcomes of the vote.

They’ve basically been war-gaming election evening.

There’s one situation that worries the tech bosses: postal votes are anticipated to be weighted in the direction of the Democratic candidate, whereas voting on the poll field is anticipated to favour the incumbent Republican.

This is as a result of Mr Trump has instructed his supporters to vote in individual. He says the postal voting course of is rigged (there is no such thing as a proof of this).

The Democrats, in contrast, haven’t any such downside with encouraging postal voting.

As a end result, these two methods of voting have change into politically skewed.

This may create what’s being coined as a “red mirage” on the evening of the ballot and a “blue shift” within the days after.

In this situation, Mr Trump would “win” on the day as a result of poll field votes can have been counted.

But then, after the postal votes slowly rack up, Mr Biden would claw away at Mr Trump’s lead.

Disputed end result

What would Mr Trump do? Well virtually the whole lot he is mentioned and tweeted so far suggests he’d declare victory – or on the very least query the end result.

“[We] must know election results on the night of the election, not days, months, or even years later!” he tweeted in July.

His fixed speak of postal voting fraud additionally factors to him questioning the ultimate tally.

And final week he refused to decide to a peaceable switch of energy.

In truth, Mr Trump has already accomplished one thing comparable. During the Florida mid-term elections of 2018, as recounts had been starting to haul in a Republican majority, he tweeted the next:

Trump tweet: The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!picture copyrightTwitter

So the proof factors a technique. Mr Trump does not need to cling round for all these postal votes to be counted.

This is the place the Big Tech bosses are available.

If Mr Trump goes to declare victory, it is seemingly he’ll do it by way of Twitter and Facebook.

And these platforms have mentioned – unequivocally – that they won’t enable him to try this.

An election worker points at a ballot in the 2016 US presidential electionpicture copyrightAFP
picture captionElection fraud within the US is believed to be very uncommon
Twitter has mentioned it would “label or remove misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election… eg claiming victory before election results have been certified”.
Facebook has mentioned it would reject adverts from US political campaigns prematurely claiming victory earlier than outcomes have been declared – and take away disinformation concerning the vote.
On Friday, information web site Axios reported that Google would block election adverts after election day as a response to this identical concern.

So we now have this chance: Mr Trump claims victory, however is blocked from spreading the phrase on social media.

Dangerous second

This may create maybe essentially the most harmful second that any of those social media firms have confronted.

Donald Trump makes a speech with US flags in the backgroundpicture copyrightReuters
picture captionPresident Donald Trump claims the US may very well be heading in the direction of its most corrupt election ever

They should censor doubtlessly 1000’s of politically charged posts.

As passions intensify, the presidential candidates could vow revenge for selections taken about what to go away up or take down that they disagree with.

What may Mr Trump do to punish them? Well sooner or later he may search to repeal Section 230 – which protects social media firms from being accountable for the content material folks publish.

He’s already indicated – by way of govt orders – that he is keen to do that.

Biden too may refuse to concede defeat – or go too far in claiming that Republicans try to “steal” the election.

And if Mr Biden wins however feels social media fanned the flames of division? Well there are numerous Democrats who’re involved with the facility that these firms have. Some imagine they need to even be cut up up.

Joe Biden on stage with US flags in the backgroundpicture copyrightEPA
picture captionJoe Biden has mentioned that President Trump may attempt to steal the election

Of course, this may not occur. Mr Trump may win by a landslide and Mr Biden settle for defeat instantly. Or Mr Biden may win the favored vote on the evening, and Mr Trump may go graciously.

But the entire proof to date means that’s not going to occur.

And that might imply critical issues for not simply the United States, however the way forward for social media itself.

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