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Twitter launches 'pre-bunks' to get ahead of voting misinformation

Twitter will begin placing messages at the top of users’ feeds to pre-emptively debunk false information about voting by mail and election results.
Image: Pinellas Sheriff Says To Station Deputies Outside Pinellas County Polling Sites In Florida
Early voters drive up to cast their mail-ballots at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office polling station on Oct. 25, 2020 in Largo, Fla.Octavio Jones / Getty Images

Twitter said Monday it would begin placing messages at the top of users’ feeds to pre-emptively debunk false information about voting by mail and election results, an escalation of the tech company’s battle against misinformation.

Twitter is calling the messages a “pre-bunk,” something it says it has never done, because the debunking is not a reaction to an existing tweet with misinformation.

“Election experts confirm that voting by mail is safe and secure, even with an increase in mail-in ballots,” one of the messages scheduled to go live Monday reads. “Even so, you might encounter unconfirmed claims that voting by mail leads to election fraud ahead of the 2020 US elections.” The message has a button to lead users to more information.

A second message, also in the prime location at the top of users’ feeds, is scheduled to go live Wednesday and address misinformation about the timing of election results, the company said in a statement.

Both messages will be shown to all users in the U.S., the company said. “These prompts will alert people that they may encounter misinformation, and provide them with credible, factual information on the subject,” Twitter said.

Some academic research has found that such prompts can be effective countermessages that “inoculate” users against conspiracy theories.

Twitter, Facebook, Google and other tech companies are racing to make last-minute changes to prepare their services for an expected rise in misinformation, election interference or even civil unrest as officials prepare to begin counting votes Nov. 3.

Other recent changes by the tech companies include fact-check labels on false information about voting and a quiet period for political ads as votes are counted.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that voting by mail is likely to lead to an uptick in fraud. Numerous studies have debunked the idea that there is substantial, widespread voter fraud in American elections, whether they are conducted predominantly by mail or otherwise.