For all the criticism that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube endured over their failures to curb disinformation during the 2016 election, their response this time on Election Day was largely smooth.
The social platforms said that they would not allow a political candidate to make misleading statements about the outcome of a race. So when President Trump falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook early Wednesday that the election was being stolen, the companies labeled his message to indicate it was disputed and that there was no winner yet.
Facebook also added a notification at the top of News Feeds to say there was no official election result after Mr. Trump spoke early Wednesday from the White House declaring himself the victor.
“What we actually saw on Election Day from the companies is that they were extremely responsive and faster than they’ve ever been,” said Graham Brookie, the director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “Outside of the unknowns, the platforms were proactive and prepared for the inevitable — which was disinformation about the results of the election from Donald Trump.”
But the biggest tests for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube could still be looming, misinformation researchers said. Votes are still being counted and the outcome of the presidential race remains unclear, creating a situation that presents many opportunities for false narratives, they said.
Already on Wednesday morning, Twitter applied a label to a post by Ben Wikler, head of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, which asserted prematurely that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had won in the state. The company also added a label to a new tweet from Mr. Trump, in which he claimed his early leads in Democratic states “started to magically disappear.” Twitter also prevented the post from being shared by other users.
“As votes are still being counted across the country, our teams continue to take enforcement action on tweets that prematurely declare victory or contain misleading information about the election broadly,” a Twitter spokesman said in a statement.