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Facebook, social media giants should limit Newsom recall misinformation, civic groups say

Lara Korte | Sacramento Bee | September 2, 2021

More than a dozen civic groups signed a letter asking four of the world’s most powerful social media platforms to take action to stop the spread false and misleading information ahead of the recall election of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The letter, addressed to the leaders of Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube, urges the companies to replicate their approach durng the 2020 presidential election, when the platforms enhanced content moderation, labeled disputed or inaccurate information and highlighted trustworthy information and news sources.

“While those steps were far from perfect, they nevertheless had the material effect of slowing the spread of dangerous lies, conspiracy theories, and attempts to deceive voters,” the letter said.

Recall ballots have already arrived in millions of mailboxes across California, and the “specter of online disinformation to confuse voters, drive down turnout, and interfere with the democratic process” looms large, the letter warns.

The groups cited a slew of conspiracy theories around the recall that have been disproven by fact checkers. One such debunked conspiracy includes a claim that employees of Dominion Voting Systems, a voting technology company that’s come under attack by right-wing groups, work at the Sacramento County Registrar’s Office.

The false claim seemed to spread via Twitter and Facebook over the summer. No Dominion employees are on the county payroll.

The civic groups backing the request include Common Cause, the California Voter Foundation, Decode Democracy, Courage California and the Secure Elections Network.