The 2016 U.S. elections were clearly a watershed moment for misinformation. Following Donald Trump’s victory, it soon became clear that some social media platforms were unknowingly circulating inaccurate information. Worryingly, some of these were produced by external state actors who aimed to (unsuccessfully) directly influence the result.
Misinformation is now a top-level policy issue. In addition to concerns about external nations interfering in democratic processes, governments are also concerned about information accuracy. This is especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, where inaccurate information has circulated through social media, countering public health messaging and engaging in conspiracy theories about the origins and severity of the disease.
Other popular conspiracies, such as the prominence of QAnon in the lead up to the 2020 U.S. election, offer another example of this growing misinformation problem. It also shows that citizens can circulate information-based threats to democracy.
Governments across the world have introduced new laws and regulatory frameworks in response. In this brief, the authors:
- Provide an overview of this reform moment;
- Identify key regulatory trends;
- Discuss recent platform decisions;
- Assess the benefits and risks associated with the identification and regulation of news and information.