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Social Media and the Election

This year’s election has been a trailblazer for many reasons, and social media has become a platform filled with opinions and calls to action. Specific channels have chosen to handle these situations in different ways, such as Snapchat getting more than 1M of its users to register to vote, and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok adding information sections directing to the news, a function triggered by specific keywords. Overall, many of these platforms have provided a space for users to get information on ballots and registering in the first place. The utilization of social media to encourage users to get to the polls may have arguably been the reason for the historical influx in voter turnout.

Hashtags, a fundamental function of mainstream social media platforms, were bound to begin trending during the election, and sites such as Facebook and Instagram had to take action and start banning certain hashtags on their platforms. Like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok were also worried about the possibility of real-world violence that could stem from controversial online conversations. They took blocked hashtags, like “#sharpiegate (in relation to the manual editing of vote slips), #stopthesteal, and #riggedelection. TikTok also blocked these hashtags, “while Twitter has continued to add warnings to all posts it detects which may contain election misinformation,” according to SocialMediaToday. Facebook took further action, shutting down Facebook groups, “which had been created on the back of questions around the election results, due to concerns that they could be used to organize violent protests in response.”

During the week of the election, Facebook and Instagram shared banners at the top of users’ home screens titled, “Votes are Still Being Counted.” These social media sites did this to protect users from false or manipulated information regarding the Presidential election. If users wanted more information and updates, they could even tap the banner which would lead them to further resources. Now, after the election has been called (pending any recounts or trials), the banners state, “A Presidential Winner Has Been Projected,” with a link at the bottom that allows users to access the “Voting Information Center.” SocialMediaToday stated, “These official updates serve as a counter to the speculation online, and do seem to be having some impact in quelling angst around the result.”

Instagram announced that they are removing the “Recent” posts search option from Instagram to potentially stop the spread of ‘harmful content’ around the election, according to a Tweet from @InstagramComms. They also said they will “...ban ads that wrongly claim victory in the US presidential race or ads that claim rampant voter fraud could alter the results of the election. It’ll also reject ads from the campaigns of President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden if either tries to claim a win prematurely.” According to The Verge, “This scenario makes it critical that misinformation about the results of the election doesn’t go viral before a winner is officially announced.” In social media’s attempt to provide the most informative and up-to-date information about the results of the election, each company is taking vital defense measures to ensure clarity for its users.


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