As social network Threads grows, voting rights groups worry about misinformation
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Threads, the latest social media site created by Facebook parent Meta, is only a few weeks old, and it already has tens of millions of users. It may become a major source of election information, but the company has yet to outline a plan to curb disinformation on the site. As NPR's Dara Kerr reports, that's got some voting rights groups worried.
DARA KERR, BYLINE: Two days after Threads launched, the company got a letter from several voting rights groups.
ANDREA HAILEY: What we're asking for here is a real plan, knowing that we're only a few months out from presidential primaries and that very soon presidential election will be on our doorstep.
KERR: Andrea Hailey is the CEO of Vote.org, one of the biggest get-out-the-vote organizations nationwide. Hailey and other voting rights advocates fear that, as the 2024 election cycle ramps up, disinformation about voter registration and polling places could go viral. That's because Threads doesn't yet have policies around combating these types of posts.
HAILEY: Inaction on this issue would be to allow disinformation to proliferate. So any time you have 100 million new users, it's a time to think about how that platform could be affecting democracy.
KERR: Threads is Meta's offering as a Twitter alternative. Unlike Facebook, where people share with friends, Threads is all about text conversations with strangers. Within days of its launch, it became the fastest-growing app in history, although recent data suggest activity on the platform is waning.
HAILEY: What we're wanting to know is, how do they plan to allocate resources? What are their rules and policies going to be at Threads, and how are they going to make sure that Americans are receiving accurate information about elections ahead of this presidential?
KERR: Meta has policies for Facebook and Instagram, but it hasn't published any for Threads. A spokesperson told NPR that Facebook's rules apply to Threads. So, for example, people can't post false claims about voter registration. Voting groups say Threads needs a stand-alone policy. Otherwise, it's unclear how rules will be implemented and enforced. Bond Benton researches misinformation at Montclair State University, and he says this is critical, especially given reports that Meta laid off staff from its teams that work on election disinformation.
BOND BENTON: There's been a real kind of, like, nascent little bit of branding to suggest that Threads is going to be a gentler, more honest and more open space online. The proof in the pudding will be, do they adhere to that in the election?
KERR: The voting rights groups say they've yet to hear back from Meta on their letter.
Dara Kerr, NPR News.
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