Can Facebook and Twitter put the brakes on the flood of disinformation?

Can Facebook and Twitter put the brakes on the flood of disinformation?

First, the good news. With a US presidential election under three weeks away, Facebook and Twitter are working overtime to try to stem the flow of misinformation.

Both companies acted quickly on Wednesday against a New York Post article based on information of uncertain provenance that could be highly damaging to the Joe Biden campaign. Facebook said it was slowing the spread of the article on its network, while Twitter blocked it outright.

The problem: The more active the networks get, the greater the outrage they provoke on one side or the other. At a time of extreme partisanship, any action is an open invitation to politicians to wade in with swingeing regulation. Republicans, already baying to strip internet companies of the legal protections that allow them to control what appears on their platforms, have just been handed another piece of red meat.

The large number of interventions and policy changes announced by the networks in recent weeks has been hard to keep track of. It suggests they are on red alert. But coming this close to an election, it inevitably looks piecemeal and reactive.