Friday, 15 September 2023
On International day of Democracy, Google, Meta, X and TikTok not ready for the 2024 global election tsunami
(15 September 2023, London) – Social media companies aren’t ready for the 2024 election tsunami, said civil society leaders and survivors of tech harms behind the Global Coalition for Tech Justice, a newly formed global movement to ensure Big Tech companies – including Meta Google, X and TikTok – make online platforms safe for the 2 billion people due to vote in 65 elections in 2024. The Global Coalition for Tech Justice gathers over 140 members from more than 55 countries across Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, Europe and North America, including civil society organisations, human rights defenders, researchers and other experts.
On 6 July, the Coalition asked Google, Meta, X, and TikTok to establish fully resourced election action plans, both at the global and country levels, for the protection of freedoms, rights, and user safety during the 2024 global election megacycle. To date, social media companies haven’t responded to this request to share their election plans to protect people and democracy in 2024.
“Once again, Big Tech is showing the world that they are playing their own game. While they continue to count their profits, our democracies are left vulnerable to violent coup attempts, venomous hate speech, and election interference. Big Tech’s chronic lag in addressing these threats means that our global democracies will be paying the price.”
The clock is ticking, and Big Tech needs to start listening in order to protect a democratic future,” said Maen Hammad, campaigner at corporate accountability group Ekō, member of the Global Coalition for Tech Justice.
2024 will be the most consequential year for democracy in our lifetime – a global elections megacycle. Some 2 billion people will be entitled to vote as over 65 elections are due to take place. This will include some of the world’s largest democracies like the United States, the European Union, India, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa and countries in active democratic decline like Tunisia, and in active oppression of citizens’ freedoms such as Egypt.
Today, International day of Democracy, civil society leaders and survivors of tech harms from Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, Europe and North America are joining forces to sound the alarm, regarding the chronic underinvestment in and neglect of platform safety by Meta, Google, X and TikTok in their countries, which could jeopardise the integrity of elections and the safety of citizens in 2024.
“The situation is extremely dangerous. I don’t know how we will make it until elections, given the profound challenges we are encountering with the government,” said exiled Rania Amdouni, Tunisian human rights activist targeted in social media hate campaigns and doxxing in Tunisia, under the increasingly autocratic rule of President Kaïs Saïed. “If they [Big Tech companies] fail to take resolute and tangible actions to halt this situation…they will become complicit in this violence.”
In South Africa, xenophobic hate on social media targets migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and has pushed the country to the brink of violence. “The gains we have made post-apartheid have come undone by the escalating levels of xenophobic violence against migrants, asylum seekers and refugees predominantly fuelled by targeted political online campaigns on social media platforms,” said Sherylle Dass of public interest law firm Legal Resources Centre, a Coalition member. “In the run-up to our 2024 elections it is imperative that social media platforms take proactive steps to protect our democracy and not be complicit in amplifying xenophobic hate against migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.”
In India, which is experiencing a new wave of anti-Muslim violence, Meta has flouted its own rules on political advertising and anti-Muslim hate speech propagated by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Hindu hardliners. “Meta hasn’t come even close to policing its platforms in India because of lack of content moderators and due to its ties to the BJP,” said Ratik Asokan, member of the diaspora organisation India Civil Watch International, a Coalition member. “BJP has no incentive to take down hate speech because this is part of their politics, it contributes to their electoral success. The only people we could appeal to are turning a blind eye to this. Meta speaks the language of human rights but it is acting as an ally for the Hindu far-right.”
In Brazil, which is holding municipal elections in the fall of 2024, experts worry that Big Tech companies haven’t learnt their lesson from the January attack on government buildings by supporters of the far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, asking to overturn the results of the October 2022 presidential election. “The far-right now has a common enemy and they are organising themselves as never before to gain votes in those local municipalities, gain strength for the next national election,” said Nina Santos, Coalition member and researcher at the Brazilian National Institute of Science & Technology in Digital Democracy and director of Aláfia Lab. “[There is a] lack of attention of platform policies to local cultures, like political violence, racism, misogyny, are not taken into account. All of these policies are just translated into local languages from English – there is no understanding of the local context.”
- The Global Coalition for Tech Justice wrote to Google (owner of YouTube), Meta (owner of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Threads), X (formerly Twitter) and ByteDance (owner of TikTok) on 6th July asking them to provide their election plans and commitment to meet the demands set out by the Coalition to protect people and elections in 2024. A deadline for response of 4th September was given, giving companies a full two months to respond. None of the companies have shared information on any election plans for 2024. After the deadline, TikTok sent a letter to the coalition, and Meta wrote a letter to the Conscious Ad Network, a coalition member, but neither letter contains their plans for the 2024 elections. Google has expressed an interest in engaging with the Coalition. Journalists will be provided with any relevant updates up until the embargo deadline.
- To see the campaign launch event with a global lineup of experts and survivors of tech harms, on Friday 15 September 2023, 12:00-13:30 UTC: http://www.youtube.com/@DigitalActionCo
- For more detailed information on Big Tech risks, please read our country briefings Tunisia, South Africa, India and Brazil.
Latest investigations by Coalition members below. The Coalition will be highlighting platform failures from now on throughout the 2024 global election megacycle.
- Facebook, YouTube and TikTok approve for publication violent xenophobic hate in South Africa, Global Witness, Legal Resources Centre, 20 June 2023
- Meta Still not DSA ready, Eko (formerly SumOfUs), August 2023 https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.sumofus.org/pdf/Meta_Still_Not_DSA-Ready
- Please see the 2024 elections map.
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