MapLight Launches New Tools to Combat Misinformation Ahead of 2020 Election

Alec Saslow | September 22, 2020

The nonprofit MapLight launched new, free tools today aimed at combating the spread of false and deceptive election-related information ahead of the 2020 election, including a browser plug-in called the Election Deception Tracker as well as a Text-to-Report line for people to report misleading information.

The new tools allow anyone to quickly and easily report deceptive or problematic election-related information to help protect the election and reduce the spread of false information online. The Election Deception Tracker, available for free as a browser extension on the Chrome and Firefox web browsers, allows users to capture and report content directly from their Facebook feeds. Reported information will be sent to a MapLight database, and a team of researchers and election protection advocates will analyze the content, publicize the existence of problematic information to pressure Facebook to improve its screening, and push for removal of organized efforts to spread false or misleading information by contacting executives at Facebook.

Click here to get the tracker for Chrome and click here to get the tracker for Firefox.

MapLight’s Text-to-Report service allows users to prevent the spread of misinformation by sending text or picture messages of misleading or deceptive election-related information seen in-person or anywhere online via text message. Users can simply text a picture or description of false or misleading information, such as from flyers, mailers, or content across social media platforms, to (662) 667-1234.

“These tools are designed to help anyone concerned about the rampant spread of misinformation to take an active role in protecting our democracy,” said MapLight President and Co-Founder Daniel G. Newman.  “Irresponsible practices from large technology companies like Facebook and a lack of leadership from Congress and the White House have polluted our online environment and jeopardized the integrity of the election. Our new tools allow anyone and everyone to fight back.”

The Election Deception Tracker and Text-to-Report line are intended to help users capture organized, institutional efforts that intentionally mislead people about candidates or the election, misleading information about how to participate, fake accounts that misrepresent their affiliation, and attempts at voter suppression or intimidation. The Election Deception Tracker allows users to choose from five different tags to categorize content they report, including “voting,” “candidates,” “violent threat / hate speech,” “election results,” and “fake or misleading account.” 

Content captured from the Election Deception Tracker will be used by disinformation researchers and election protection advocates who will flag problematic information at high levels at Facebook for removal if it violates the company’s terms of service. Since Facebook’s current policies are wholly insufficient to stop the spread of misinformation, the database will also serve to highlight the need for Congress to pass laws to better regulate social media and technology companies like Facebook to protect our elections and limit the spread of misinformation online.