In the spring of 2020, President Donald J. Trump used Twitter to issue warnings about the increased use of mail-in ballots, claiming it would lead to a “rigged election.” The platform responded by debunking his claims, providing an article that detailed how mail-in ballots were not linked to voter fraud, despite what Trump said.
However, rumors about election fraud were reignited when Elon Musk, the new owner of the rebranded X platform, shared Mr. Trump’s claims about the American voting system. Unlike before, there were no fact checks on Musk’s posts and the X algorithm helped these posts reach large audiences.
Since taking control of the platform, Musk has dismantled the system for flagging false election content, which has raised concerns among civil rights lawyers, election administrators, and Democrats. They fear his outsize ability to reignite doubts about the American election system, as seen in the lead-up to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
The Biden campaign criticized Musk for spreading false information about elections, leading to a dispute between Democrats and pro-Trump Republicans. Musk has made it clear that he has no intention of allowing any government interference with his platform, making X into “a much better place for conservatives.”
The new approach to fact-checking misinformation that X has adopted, such as using crowdsourced “community notes,” was not used on Musk’s posts about voting fraud. The platform’s algorithm has also given added promotion to those who pay to be “verified,” including previously banned accounts.
In 2020, Twitter deleted or added context to posts with misleading information about voting, and flagged claims that “undermine faith” in elections. Despite criticism and controversy, Musk decided to cut the integrity team last fall, claiming it was “undermining election integrity,” a decision that has had ripple effects.
Musk’s recent posts on X appear to contradict its policy, spreading false information about illegal voting and election integrity. This has been viewed by millions of people, adding to the already-fraught climate for election.