The Changing Landscape of Elections & Social Media: Info Security Talks
12 October 2023
5 min read
In a recent podcast - Info Security Talks, Dmytro Bilash- co-founder of Osavul- sat down with Matt Graydon, the former Twitter program lead responsible for the platform's response to the communication crisis stemming from misinformation. Mr. Graydon's rich experience overseeing civil integrity and elections at Twitter made him an ideal star speaker to shed light on the evolving threats and challenges social media platforms face, especially in the context of upcoming elections.
Matt Graydon's Journey Beginning the conversation, Mr. Graydon detailed his time at Twitter, where he played an integral role for three years on the Trust and Safety team, ensuring the platform's integrity during elections, crisis responses, and misinformation management. Before joining Twitter, he devoted seven years to the UN as an information officer. More recently, he's shifted to consulting, assisting civil society and government organizations in amplifying their resilience against information threats at NDI. Social Media's Evolving Relationship with Elections Mr. Bilash steered the conversation towards the evolving dynamic between elections and new technologies, notably social media. Observing the progression from the 2008 and 2012 US elections, where social media was seen as a groundbreaking tool, to the 2016 election which unveiled its dark underbelly of misinformation, our host sought Mr. Graydon's perspective.
According to Mr Graydon, 2016 was a pivotal year, with foreign influence campaigns targeting the US election and a surge in domestic misinformation. Post-2016, significant strides were made as platforms ramped up their trust and safety teams and introduced policies to tackle potential risks. While 2020 showed improvement in platform preparedness, it wasn't without challenges, as showcased by the controversial discourse around election fraud.
Looking Ahead: The 2024 Elections Discussing the impending challenges for the 2024 elections, Mr.Graydon voiced concerns. Platforms have started pulling back on the investments they made after 2016. With over 40 significant elections scheduled for 2024 and reduced staffing in trust and safety teams, Graydon anticipates a challenging landscape. He highlighted the potential threats from actors like Russia and China, emphasizing that reduced platform preparedness, motivated threat actors, and a plethora of global elections could create a perfect storm.
Emerging Threats and the Role of Trust and Safety Teams When asked about new threats on the horizon, Mr. Graydon acknowledged the rapid technological advancements but remained wary of predicting their exact impact on misinformation tactics. He stressed that apart from external threats, internal challenges like the politicization of counter-misinformation work further complicate the situation. Collaboration between governments, civil society, and platforms is imperative to address these issues. In terms of his role at Twitter, Mr. Graydon detailed the behind-the-scenes work of trust and safety teams. From monitoring content, coordinating with academic institutions, and sharing essential tips, the teams play a pivotal role in ensuring platform integrity during significant events like elections.
Conclusion As the relationship between social media and elections continues to evolve, the role of trust and safety teams remains paramount. With looming threats and a changing political landscape, collaboration and transparency are more crucial than ever. This is why using the right stack for monitoring election disinformation to protect the integrity of the process.