The upcoming election seems to be highlighting an increasing division in the United States. And social media is strongly suspected to have played a significant role in this division. A recent study at Stanford1 found that Facebook usage was directly correlated with political polarization: and that taking a four-week break from Facebook helped to decrease that polarization.
People increasingly utilize social media to share information, express opinions, and initiate political discourse with a wide audience. Even platforms that traditionally discourage political conversation will likely be affected in the run up to the 2020 election.
As actions and reactions on both sides of the political divide become more heated, Trust & Safety professionals will be challenged with managing user-generated content (UGC) on their platforms. Specific challenges for Trust & Safety professionals associated with the upcoming election include:
People spread bad information: knowingly and unknowingly. Nearly half of the entire voting population2 - both Democrat and Republican - express concern with the potential effects of false information. Currently, conflicting information is being circulated across two specific issues: the likelihood of voter fraud, and claims about the U.S. Census.
Hate speech includes any kind of online harassment that targets a person for their attributes, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. However, Trust & Safety professionals must consider that as political discussions grow increasingly divisive, hate speech will be directed at individuals due to their political beliefs as well.
Radicalization and Extremism
As the 2020 election draws nearer, Trust & Safety professionals can expect any online platform can be used to connect like-minded individuals, spreading fringe thinking and conspiracy-mindedness that characterize online radicalization. This may serve to increase the divide between political factions even further, and drive content that is detrimental to the community at large.
Platforms that support UGC are increasingly being held responsible for managing content. Three top tech CEOs - from Facebook, Twitter, and Google - are being called to testify3 before the Senate Commerce Committee on October 28 to discuss liability protections, data privacy, and media consolidation.