Instagram seen as top 2020 disinformation target

Instagram will likely be the main social media platform used to disseminate disinformation during the 2020 election, while altered “deepfake” videos of candidates will also pose a threat, according to a new report.

The report on disinformation tactics during the 2020 election, put together by New York University’s (NYU) Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, also pinpointed China, Russia and Iran as countries likely to launch such attacks against the U.S. in the lead-up to the elections.

But foreign states will not be alone, with NYU finding that domestic sources of disinformation, such as users within the U.S. creating and circulating it, will be more prevalent than overseas sources.

Voter suppression will be the main target of both streams of disinformation, with the report warning that “unwitting Americans” could also be manipulated into participating in rallies and protests.

Pressure on tech companies: The report from NYU emphasized that while “social media companies are playing better defense than they did in 2016,” it called on them “to step up their games in anticipation of 2020.”

Michael Posner, the director of NYU’s Stern Center, said in a statement that “taking steps to combat disinformation isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s in the social media companies’ best interests as well.”

“Fighting disinformation ultimately can help restore their damaged brand reputations and slows demands for governmental content regulation, which creates problems relating to free speech,” Posner added. “The platforms should seize this opportunity to implement sensible, necessary reforms that help build public trust and confidence in them while safeguarding our elections against improper interference.”

Try this: The NYU report includes a list of recommendations that social media companies can consider to defend themselves against the spread of disinformation.

These include improving the identification of deepfake videos, removing false content instead of opting not to promote it, stepping up efforts to patrol for disinformation on Instagram and WhatsApp, and hiring a senior content overseer to report to the CEO of each platform on efforts to guard against disinformation.