september 2019 Report Release


Paul M. Barrett

The role of social media in a democracy

In our fourth report on online disinformation, the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights explores risks to democracy and free speech posed by the expected spread of disinformation during the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The report outlines steps the social media companies should take to counter the coming wave of disinformation.

Preparing for the fight against false and divisive content will not be cost-free. But investments in R&D and personnel ultimately will help social media platforms restore their brand reputations and slow demands for draconian government regulation.


Read our recommendations for social media companies.

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Enhancing disinformation policies

Social media companies’ policies on disinformation often lack clarity and strategic foresight and have been enforced in an ad hoc fashion. To reduce the probability of governmental content regulation in the U.S., these companies should show they can close the governance gap when it comes to disinformation.

Read our examination of how social media companies have reacted to politically oriented false content, and the disinformation tactics they will need to prepare for in 2020.

The way forward

The report provides nine recommendations for social media companies based on our research and interviews with policymakers, civil society organizations, and the companies themselves. Building on a report released earlier this year, Tackling Domestic Disinformation, we encourage the major social media companies to remove provably false content, hire a senior content overseer, and implement a series of additional measures in anticipation of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Americans’ trust in major social media companies is wavering.