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SACRAMENTO October 19, 2020 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today sent a letter urging Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to expand efforts to stop the spread of disinformation designed to harm the upcoming U.S. election on their platforms. As Americans increasingly rely on social media platforms for news, these platforms also leave us vulnerable to coordinated disinformation attacks. While social media companies have reportedly taken some action to curb voter intimidation and election interference, including by foreign actors, nefarious behavior online continues to persist. In the letter, Attorney General Becerra calls on the social media companies to report illegal activity on their platforms, continue to revise policies as new threats arise, and consistently, transparently, and aggressively address violations of their policies on disinformation and violations of state and federal law.
“In 2016, we saw a concerted campaign to use social media to amplify disinformation in order to disrupt our election,” said Attorney General Becerra. “As a country, we must reject these tactics. As Californians begin voting in another election of national importance, I’m calling on our technology giants to do everything in their power to put a stop to election interference. These companies should take responsibility for their role in spreading misinformation and voter suppression.”
From 2014 through 2016, Russia initiated a coordinated effort to influence the outcome of the U.S. elections and undermine Americans’ confidence in the U.S. electoral system. Russian operatives posted erroneous articles and messages from fake accounts on a range of issues including politics and foreign policy, then amplified those illegitimate messages by “liking,” “commenting,” and “sharing.” These operatives and other malicious entities are now repeating these same tactics while also making them more sophisticated. They are pursuing broad disinformation and intimidation campaigns in an effort to suppress voting, particularly among African Americans and other historically disenfranchised groups. Foreign entities and others are discouraging voters by spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, attacking voting by mail, and by disguising the origin of disinformation by passing it through fringe news sites that, in turn, broadcast it to receptive audiences. Purposely providing misleading information about voting, and using threats or coercion to suppress voting, can violate a number of California election laws.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting the voting rights of people in California and across the country. Earlier this month, the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the-court brief pushing back on an executive order by the Governor of Texas aimed at limiting the number of official ballot drop-off sites to one per county — even in counties with millions of residents. Last month, Attorney General Becerra secured an early court victory protecting the U.S. Postal Service from unlawful operational changes made by the Trump Administration. He also filed an amicus brief in support of a challenge to a Florida law attempting to roll back voting rights. In July, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s latest attack on a complete, accurate census count, which determines Congressional representation and the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funds. In May, the Attorney General filed an amicus brief in support of re-enfranchisement efforts in North Carolina.
A copy of the letter is available here.