Lawmakers Urge Meta to Address Election Misinformation on WhatsApp Channels


Lawmakers are urging Meta to establish explicit guidelines to curb election misinformation on its newly launched WhatsApp Channels.

WhatsApp Channels, introduced eight months ago, is an expansion of the private messaging app WhatsApp, now functioning as a broadcast platform where users can follow updates from public accounts. Unlike traditional social media, this feature does not allow users to like or comment on posts, nor can they view which accounts others are following. 

The app already boasts half a billion users.

However, in contrast to Meta’s other platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Threads, WhatsApp Channels currently lacks defined safeguards against voter interference, threats of violence, and election misinformation.

The explicit protection measures against election misinformation on Facebook and Instagram were significantly shaped by congressional pressure. Since the 2016 presidential election, Facebook has faced intense scrutiny over its role in facilitating the spread of misinformation. 

During congressional hearings in April 2018, Mark Zuckerberg issued an apology for the company’s failures in managing the spread of fake news, hate speech, and foreign interference during the 2016 election. Subsequently, Facebook announced enhancements to its security systems and an increase in moderators to counteract foreign meddling ahead of the 2018 midterms. 

Nonetheless, Meta remains under scrutiny regarding its handling of disinformation on Facebook and Instagram. The European Union is leading an investigation into the company’s inability to halt Russian-backed misinformation.

“Meta’s ongoing reluctance to implement explicit election misinformation policies on its public WhatsApp Channels jeopardizes the integrity of democratic processes in the United States and globally,” stated Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, this week. “It is crucial that Meta extends similar policies from its other platforms to WhatsApp Channels to thwart the propagation of election-related falsehoods.”

A spokesperson for WhatsApp Channels mentioned that the platform’s community guidelines, which ban illegal, violent, fraudulent, or deceitful content, would also cover posts on voter suppression.

Tim Harper, an elections analyst at the Center for Democracy and Technology and a former Meta employee specializing in election and political ad policies, told Politico that Meta’s lack of explicit guidelines on election protections for WhatsApp Channels creates a “loophole that bad actors can and likely will exploit.”

“WhatsApp Channels stands as one of the largest online platforms in its own right,” Harper said. “Its policies should be aligned with Meta’s broader community standards, which include explicit measures to prevent election interference.”

Researchers from Mozilla and University College London reported not finding election misinformation on political candidates’ Channels since its launch. However, instances of election misinformation were observed on WhatsApp messaging before Zimbabwe’s 2023 elections and in Spanish ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections.

Elaine Mallon
Elaine Mallon
Breaking news reporter.

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