For nearly four years, social media companies have had time to develop content guidelines to get ready for the 2020 elections, especially after it was discovered that Russian activists used the sites to sow discord in the 2016 election. But despite all the preparations, the volume of last-minute changes from Twitter and Facebook suggests that they still have no control over the contents of their networks.
According to electoral experts, this raises questions about how Twitter and Facebook would deal with disruptions on election day and in the days that follow. The race between Mr. Trump and his Democratic challenger Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been unusually bitter, and the social media sites will play a prominent role in distributing information on November 3rd. Some people already use the websites to incite electoral violence.
The chaotic environment could call corporate policies into question, said Graham Brookie, director of the Digital Forensic Research Lab, a center for the study of social media, disinformation and national security. "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face," he said.
Other misinformation experts said Twitter and Facebook had no choice but to make changes on the fly, as Mr Trump, who uses social media as a megaphone, often breaks norms.
Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and former Facebook executive, noted that some companies – like Facebook – have put in place new guidelines banning this after Mr Trump recently commented to his supporters to “take the polls and watch very closely “a political candidate who does not use his platforms to demand this action. The companies also banned candidates from earning an early election victory, he said.
"These potential abuses have always been covered by very broad guidelines, but I think there are certain measures that I think are wise to take into account," said Stamos.
Oct. 16, 2020, 7:25 p.m. ET
The New York Post article blocked by Twitter was problematic from the start. The article contained alleged emails from Hunter Biden, a son of Joe Biden, discussing business in Ukraine. The origin of the emails was unclear, however, and the timing of their discovery so close to the election seemed suspicious.