Twitter and Google join Facebook in tightening rules on US election claims

Premature claims of victory will be blocked from Twitter and Google in the run-up to November’s US presidential election, as both companies follow Facebook in trying to fight the prospect of a stolen vote.

Under its new rules, Twitter will treat as harmful misinformation any tweet which makes false claims about election rigging, or prematurely claims to announce the election results.

The platform does not currently have rules against such tweets because its misinformation policy is designed to combat only those messages with the potential to cause “immediate harm”, but starting on 17 September, Twitter says, certain claims about elections move into that category.

“Twitter is where people come to hear directly from elected officials and candidates for office, it’s where they come to find breaking news, and increasingly, it’s an integral source for information on when and how to vote in elections,” the company said in a blogpost.

The new rules do not commit Twitter to removing such misinformation; instead, it may choose to apply a label to the offending tweets, as it has done with previous examples of electoral misinformation shared by Donald Trump.

Google’s policies focus on the company’s search autocomplete, which offers suggestions for terms to search for based on what users have entered. The company says it will remove any predictions that look like they could be claims “for or against a particular candidate or party”.

It will also remove predictions that seem to offer any information about voting methods, requirements or polling locations: for instance, the company said, neither “you can vote by phone” nor “you can’t vote by phone” will appear as search suggestions.

The rules will not, Google emphasised, affect search results themselves.

Last week, Facebook led the way with a similar set of rules, announced by its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg. “This election is not going to be business as usual,” he wrote in a post on the site. “If any candidate or campaign tries to declare victory before the results are in, we’ll add a label to their post educating that official results are not yet in and directing people to the official results,” Facebook said.

None of the companies explicitly named Donald Trump in their explanation for the new policies, but fears have been growing for some time that the president could seize on delayed results, due in part to the rapid increase in voting by mail, and declare himself victor before the true count is known.

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