Twitter is fighting election chaos by urging users to quote tweet instead of retweet

Twitter announced a slew of temporary changes on Friday aimed at staving off abuse around the November 3rd US presidential election. Tweets that include premature claims of victory will be labeled, tweets intended to incite interference in the election or election results will be subject to removal, and tweets from political figures with more than 100,000 followers — which includes President Trump — that are labeled as “misleading” will be more difficult to access.

“Twitter has a critical role to play in protecting the integrity of the election conversation, and we encourage candidates, campaigns, news outlets and voters to use Twitter respectfully and to recognize our collective responsibility to the electorate to guarantee a safe, fair and legitimate democratic process this November,” according to a blog post authored by Twitter legal, policy, and trust and safety lead Vijaya Gadde and product lead Kayvon Beykpour.

The temporary changes will put the brakes on how most people can use Twitter. Starting today, users will be encouraged to “add their own commentary” before retweeting something, pushing them toward the quote tweet option instead. Users who choose not to quote tweet can still retweet, but the company says it’s adding “extra friction and an extra step” in the hopes that it will “increase the likelihood that people add their own thoughts, reactions and perspectives to the conversation.”

Twitter also won’t provide “liked by” and “followed by” recommendations from people a user doesn’t follow and will only include trending topics in its “for you” tab for US users that include “additional context.” And when a user tries to retweet a tweet that’s been labeled as “misleading,” they’ll see a prompt directing them to credible information before they can retweet the bad info.

Image: Twitter

Twitter has labeled several of Trump’s tweets for violating its rules

How Internet-connected voter check-in devices can create election chaos

A polling-place worker holds an "I'm a Georgia Voter" sticker during the primary election on June 9, 2020 in Atlanta.
Enlarge / A polling-place worker holds an “I’m a Georgia Voter” sticker during the primary election on June 9, 2020 in Atlanta.

A federal judge in Georgia has ordered election officials to print paper backups of voter data so that voting can proceed even if the digital system for checking in voters fails. This is a win for plaintiffs who have argued that flaws in Georgia’s electronic-poll-book (EPB) system hampered voting in the June primary and could do so again in November.

Over the last 20 years, a lot of discussion has revolved around the risk that electronic voting machines pose to the security and integrity of elections. But there has been less attention paid to electronic poll books—another digital system that can undermine election integrity if they malfunction.

Pollworkers use EPBs to verify a voter’s eligibility and then check the voter in. Malfunctions in these systems can slow down the voting process so much that some people give up voting altogether. By targeting precincts where most people vote for a particular candidate or party, a hacker could potentially swing a close election just by triggering malfunctions in electronic poll books. And while voting machines are supposed to be kept off the Internet, electronic poll books are often online throughout election day.

There’s no evidence that anyone has deliberately exploited this potential vulnerability in American elections, and maybe no one ever will. But at a minimum, electronic poll books make American elections more complex and brittle. It’s possible that, as with voting machines, the old paper system was actually a better choice.

Georgia’s electronic poll books caused problems

Georgia has long been a battleground in the debate over electronic voting technology. Until last year, Georgia used ancient paperless voting machines that didn’t allow for a meaningful post-election audit. Last year,