The public perception has changed greatly over the past 8 years over social media's involvement in elections. In 2008, the public praised social media for being responsible for Obama's presidency. This year, people have expressed outrage at social media for being responsible for Trump's presidency. So, what has changed in such a small period of time?
While there are a number of issues, including the party associated with the winner, the real issues comes to the type of involvement social media had. In 2008, it gave citizens a way to express their opinions, whether it be via text or video. This year, paid advertising played a greater part in the process, and those ads did not come from citizens. In fact, many of the ads did not even come from organizations within North America, but instead from Russia.
The networks have looked for ways to address the issue of disinformation coming from Russia's propaganda machine, and each has addressed it differently. This week, Twitter announced 2 new ways in which they plan to address the issue going forward. The first is to remove two organizations, Russia Today and Sputnik, both Russian state media, from running any ads on the network. The company said of the decision,
Twitter has made the policy decision to off-board advertising from all accounts owned by Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, effective immediately. This decision was based on the retrospective work we've been doing around the 2016 U.S. election and the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that both RT and Sputnik attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government. We did not come to this decision lightly, and are taking this step now as part of our ongoing commitment to help protect the integrity of the user experience on Twitter.
The second announcement involves advertising disclosure. For those who are interested in knowing information, which does not seem to be the majority anymore, the company is creating an Advertising Transparency Center, where people can see who has purchased a particular ad on the network, as well as length of the ad buy and targeting parameters.
In addition, the company will mark all political ads as such, which will allow people to see the transparency data in the Advertising Transparency Center. This will allow people to see if the information is being shared by a reputable source. The company said,
To make it clear when you are seeing or engaging with an electioneering ad, we will now require that electioneering advertisers identify their campaigns as such. We will also change the look and feel of these ads and include a visual political ad indicator.
These moves are certainly positive, but it all relies on the idea that people are curious. That was once the case, but seems to no longer be the truth. Most people seem to simply believe everything they read with no regard for source or reliability. That means that, at best this is wasted time and, at worst, a marketing ploy from the company.