X (formerly Twitter) has reportedly disabled a feature that allowed users to report misinformation about elections, a move that has sparked fears of a surge in disinformation ahead of key elections in Australia and the United States.
The feature, which was introduced in 2021, allowed users to select “Report Content,” then “It’s misleading,” and then “Politics.” It was available in the U.S., Australia, South Korea, Brazil, the Philippines, and Spain.
Reset.Tech Australia, a research group, called the scrapping of the feature “extremely concerning,” as Australia is set to hold a referendum next month on whether to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the constitution.
“There now appears to be no channel to report electoral misinformation when discovered on your platform,” the group said in a letter to X.
Users can still report posts that they consider to be hateful, abusive, or spam. However, there is no specific reporting channel for election misinformation.
The move comes amid growing concerns about the spread of disinformation on social media platforms, particularly during elections. A recent study by the European Commission found that X had the biggest proportion of disinformation of the six big social networks.
The study examined over 6,000 unique social media posts across Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, X, and YouTube. It found that X had the largest “ratio of discoverability” of disinformation – which means the chances of a user coming across disinformation. YouTube had the lowest.
The EU’s Values and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova warned X in the wake of the study that it must comply with the Digital Services Act (DSA), which is designed to protect users and stop election interference.
Since Musk took over X in late 2022, the company has been accused of allowing a rise in hate speech and misinformation. Musk has denied this, arguing that the platform’s “Community Notes” feature, which allows users to comment on posts to flag false or misleading content, is a better way of fact checking.
Critics still argue that Community Notes is not as effective as a dedicated reporting channel for election misinformation. They also point out that Musk has fired a number of key employees responsible for safety and trust on the platform.
The sources for this piece include an article in BBC.