The 2016 election represented a turning point in the public’s view of social media companies and the role they play in elections. After experiencing four years of unrelenting criticism for their mistakes related to disinformation and foreign interference in 2016, these companies looked to the 2020 election as an opportunity for redemption. In addition to adopting new policies regarding disinformation and other content violations, they also took proactive steps to help facilitate voter registration, poll worker recruitment, voter education, and other forms of civic participation. This chapter examines election-related policy changes and initiatives designed by Facebook/Instagram, Google/YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, and TikTok. This chapter relies largely on the policies and accomplishments as stated by the companies themselves, given that the firms provide very limited data to outsiders relating to the success of their policies. Their efforts to provide accurate information and tools for voters to navigate the election may not have been able to compete with self-serving propagation of disinformation from the Trump campaign and its supporters. Nevertheless, the role that the platforms played in facilitating participation and informing the public about voting-related changes codified their position as key players in the administration of the election.
Authors: Bronte Kass, Michelle Ly, Chase Small, Liv Jenks, and Mikaela Pyatt