X opens the door to theories of electoral fraud

6 minutes
X opens the door to theories of electoral fraud
"A politician in a rally with mobile phones raised and threads and algorithms around", performed by Adobe Firefly.

Last week X, the company we knew until recently as Twitter, announced changes to its election rules. According to a statement, the adjustments were made to counter problematic content "without censoring political debate." However, it failed to mention one of the most radical changes: with the new wording of the rule, misleading information about election results is no longer prohibited on the platform.

Among the rules that disappeared from the new text is the restriction on disclosing unverified information about fraud or undermining confidence in a process through disinformation narratives related to vote counting.

While the platform continues to prohibit certain types of electoral disinformation, such as that which attempts to mislead about voting locations or methods, ceasing to sanction that which refers to the results of a process opens the door to harmful content that can have an impact in the offline environment.

Restrictions of this type were introduced by Twitter and other platforms following the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in which Donald Trump's claims of fraud and promotion of the theory Stop the steal theory sowed doubts about the legitimacy of the process and led to the takeover of the Capitol in Washington in 2021.

A similar situation arose earlier this year in Brasilia, where supporters of Jair Bolsonaro invaded government buildings and provoked other violent incidents after several weeks of questioning the results of the presidential election in which Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won.

The changes introduced by X occur when next year's presidential campaign in the United States begins to take off, in which Trump -despite all the legal troubles he faces- will possibly be a candidate again. In fact, the former president, who had been suspended from the main platforms after the seizure of the Capitol, resumed his activity on this social network with a message in which he suggests that the legal proceedings against him are an attempt at "electoral interference".

The effects of this new X direction could be felt earlier in Latin America, given the elections scheduled for next month in Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina. Around some of these electoral processes, discourses questioning their legitimacy have already begun to be promoted.

After having won the primary elections in Argentina, Javier Milei assured on television that he would have obtained five additional points in the PASO votes if there had not been fraud, a statement that could be back on the table in October, when the first round will be held. At the same time, in Ecuador, data verification agencies such as AP have denied false news according to which fraud had been committed against candidate Christian Zurita, who replaced Fernando Villavicencio, murdered shortly before the first round.

Colombia has also been the scene of this type of discourse. Last year, during the presidential and legislative elections, questions were raised about the Registrar's Office software and an alleged breach in the chain of custody.

Under the "freedom of speech, but not of scope" philosophy that Elon Musk introduced when he acquired the company, content that violates the election rules will not be removed, but will have lower visibility on the platform and a label will be applied to it.

Political advertising returns to X

The new election rules on X come with another piece of news: the return of political advertising on the platform. Paid ads by campaigns, parties and candidates had been banned on the platform since October 2019, when Jack Dorsey, then CEO of the company, assured that the reach of these messages should be earned rather than bought.

The ads will initially be available in the United States and will apply specific rules to prevent them from being used to amplify false information about the forms of participation or attempts to dissuade citizens from voting.

According to the announcement, X will implement an advertising transparency center to review the political content advertised on the platform, similar to Meta's Ad Library or Google's Ad Transparency Center, where it is possible to consult the scope of political advertising on networks, the amount spent and the targeting criteria. For now, X only has a Google form available to request information on political ads in the United States.

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