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I recently had the privilege of hosting key speakers such as Glenn Ellingson from Integrity Institute, Jan Eisfeld from Wikimedia Foundation, and our own Rachael Levy on the topic of elections. Our panelists discussed the critical subject of election integrity as we gear up towards the 2024 elections. Their insights, suggestions, and strategies presented a much-needed roadmap to navigate the dynamics of election integrity.
First and foremost, we all agreed on the importance of election integrity programs, especially when it comes to platforms prioritizing reliable and high-quality content. With a robust integrity program, the spread of hate, misinformation, and voter suppression could be prevented during elections. After all, elections are considered the “boss fights” of Trust & Safety, underscoring the weight that they carry and the preparation needed for them.
Election integrity programs are not just crucial to the democratic process, they’re also central to addressing misinformation and disinformation during such major events. A good election integrity program not only prioritizes the users’ safety but also the truth that the users consume.
Glenn Ellingson had some practical suggestions for Trust & Safety teams. He advocated for having operational processes to meet the fast-paced nature of elections. He further advocated for cross-industry collaborations as a means of supporting smaller teams or those who do not have the right resources to cover ongoing elections. The industry is full of regional and topical expertise, and the teams who lack that knowledge should be empowered to reach out for help.
Lastly, he highlighted the importance of evaluating and quickly modifying the product to make it less vulnerable to potential abuse. The “normal” product change process, he explained, would take too long in an election year, when changes should be made quickly, to adjust for new threats and avoid election-related harms.
Our panel also delved into practical ways of ensuring election integrity using Wikimedia Foundation’s multi-layered approach as an exemplar. It includes an in-depth analysis of historical data and trends, reliance on community experts, collaborations with external partners specializing in election integrity, and robust user feedback mechanisms.
Wikimedia places emphasis on understanding the platform’s position in the information ecosystem and conducts long-term planning accordingly. They also prioritize their elections based on certain criteria and have initiated task forces to perform an assessment of disinformation problems and human rights risks.
During the Q&A session, the tricky balance between free speech and information veracity was brought to the fore. The speakers suggested considering a source’s information and employing grids or libraries to map out content themes and user bases. This execution allows the platform to focus on spreading truthful content, while not being overwhelmed by misinformation.
The subjects of bias in content moderation and Trust & Safety teams’ advisory role in Wikipedia also entered the conversation. The speakers underscored the need to leverage available resources and collaborations with others in the industry, particularly for smaller teams with fewer resources. They asserted the importance of using reputable sources to complement their findings, citing Wikipedia as an example.
When asked about securing the 2024 elections in the face of claims denying previous election results, the consensus seemed to be that preventative measures should be taken on a case-by-case basis. The panelists highlighted focusing on behavioral indicators instead of the content itself as a mitigation strategy. The session also captured multiple perspectives on mitigating political bias by looking beyond content to assess behavioral indicators.
In response to the resources used by Trust & Safety teams, while many use Wikipedia as their primary resource, the panelists emphasized the significance of sourcing from multiple areas for a comprehensive understanding.
The impact of layoffs on misinformation and how it affects Trust & Safety teams was acknowledged with the speakers conveying optimism and resolve to move forward.
Elections are a critical aspect of our democratic life, and protecting their integrity is therefore crucial to ensuring the democratic process. It’s a priority in 2024 and beyond. The takeaways from this webinar were insightful and provided pragmatic strategies to navigate this complex terrain. Platforms need to be proactive, prioritize safety, maintain partnerships with external organizations, and adapt their product as needed to secure election integrity. Implementing these practices may indeed secure the 2024 elections as a model of information veracity and voter safety.
For more detailed information from this webinar, check out the full recording on demand: