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S2E10 – Social Media & the Battle Against Misinformation with Facebook’s Eva Guidarini

In this episode, hosts Brianna Lennon and Eric Fey speak with Eva Guidarini, the manager of state and local government outreach at Facebook. They spoke about how local election officials can use their social media platforms to educate voters and push back against misinformation.

For any local election official with questions regarding how to report misinformation and how to get their official Facebook pages verified, you can reach out to Eva at eguidarini@fb.com.

High Turnout, Wide Margins Credits:
Managing Editor: Rebecca Smith
Managing Producer: Aaron Hay
Associate Producers: Katie Quinn, Abigail Ruhman

Transcription of the episode is as follows:

Brianna Lennon: Welcome to High Turnout Wide Margins. This is Brianna Lennon, I am the co-host and County Clerk for Boone County, Missouri, and we're really excited today to be talking about misinformation and social media. Eva Guidarini is here from Meta/Facebook, to talk about what the company is doing with regard to misinformation in the election space, but also just to talk a little bit about what we as local election authorities can do to be alert and proactive. So thank you very much for joining me today.

Eva Guidarini: Oh, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.

Brianna Lennon: The first question always is how did you specifically end up working in elections and on this project?

Eva Guidarini: Yeah, I used to work on campaigns, and then when I came over to Meta, I was really excited to be working in the state and local space. I just love that level of government. I think it's where so many of the great things that really impact people's lives happen.

And so, once I started getting involved in that space – so intrinsic to state and local government, that's where all of our elections work is housed. I love Facebook's sort of forward-facing proactive voter information, election products. I really wanted us to work really closely with state and local election offices as we got out those products to make sure that they were getting out the most useful and helpful information.

So, that's really how I started to get involved in the election space is really wanting to bring election officials in and partner with them on all of the great products that we're running to get out election information.

Brianna Lennon: So, I'm sure anybody listening has at least had to deal with some version of misinformation – malicious or not. But at least knowing that people are putting out information that may not be totally factually correct. What kind of spurred Facebook to get involved in, you know, bring on a local elections team? And really just kind of like how did that happen?

Eva Guidarini: Yes, well, I've been on the team since 2016. So, I've had this job – [I] used to work on campaigns, so I would lose my job every four months. My parents are just absolutely thrilled that I've held the job for more than five years. I never thought it would happen. I have been on the team, and we've really been building out the state and local team since 2016.

Just an incredibly important level of government, and so many big important things are happening in that space, which is really why we've been building over the last few years. I think especially as we hit the 2020 cycle, right? It was a big, enormous election. Rules were changing very rapidly. It was a very different election cycle, and it really, up until that point, we had worked really closely with state level election offices, but we had done less at the local level, because we really just weren't staffed to do that.

And as we sort of started to invest more in proactive election information – we ran one of the largest voter registration campaigns in history – registered over 4 million folks to vote on the platform. It became really important that we were also sort of building those direct connections with local elected offices, as well, and so that also gave us a great opportunity to build the team.

Brianna Lennon: And I can attest to the success of your voter registration drives because we always know when we start seeing tons and tons of registrations come in through our online through the state. We know it's because of Facebook.

I think local election authorities will kind of monitor their own social media just to see if they are getting that – if the reason why they're getting an upsurgence of voter registrations is because of what's happening on social media. So, that's good to know. What kind of relationships have you built with the states? And recently or even in the past how did that come about?

Eva Guidarini: Yeah, so it started back ahead of the 2018 election cycle with us, like you mentioned, when we run these voter registration reminders, they drive a lot of traffic and we run them directly to state websites. We want to make sure that those websites are prepared for the traffic, right? That we're not sending a bunch of folks to a state that's not prepared to receive that huge influx, so they didn't get any warning.

It really came out of a desire to really work in partnership with these folks and make sure that both we're getting out information in a way that is helpfully timed for them. But also to make sure that sort of everyone was aware, and we don't want to make anyone's job harder. So to make sure that we were working sort of in concert with the amazing folks who runs the election offices. So, that's sort of when it started in 2018, and then we really collaborated hand in hand with state election offices on sort of the detailed information that we provided on platform in 2020.

And I think a really big piece of our work with these election offices has been really hearing their feedback over the years and getting to build things in response to that. So, one of the things that we heard leading up to 2020 pretty regularly from state election offices and some of the locals that we worked with, as well, is that Facebook ads were not a great way for them to get out information to people quickly when they needed to, right?

Not everyone has a budget, they're kind of difficult to run, and so, they needed a really fast way to be able to get out both information about the voting steps people wanted to take and ways to sort of counter misinformation that they might be seeing on the platform. And so in response to that feedback, we were actually able to work really closely with our product teams and develop a tool just for election offices called “voting alerts,” which allows an election office to send out a notification to everyone in their jurisdiction with important updates about voting – in the voting and elections process.

We're really, really excited to sort of be able to get that feedback over time and then turn around a product that could address that and get election offices sort of exactly what they need. A way to sort of quickly blast out information to folks. As you all are intimately aware, elections are so decentralized in the US.

So there's only so much really at Facebook – we can only really be providing sort of specified information – top of feed at the state level. But when it comes to early voting, changes in voting location, local elections, which as we all know are happening really year-round – there’s a lot of that information is really just centralized at the county or city level. So to be able to put a tool directly in the hands of the election office that's doing this work and let them broadcast out to the people who they represent was a really great idea and one that we got from all these conversations with state and local election offices. And a tool that we were really excited to roll out in 2020 and is still live and something that we're promoting now.

Brianna Lennon: That's really great and I remember seeing that in a 2020 election. The other thing that I know a lot of people were trying to do in advance of the election and are still probably working through that and might want some information [on] is the verification process for county clerk offices. So, can you shed a little light on that process?

Eva Guidarini: Yes, I would strongly recommend getting blue badge verified. It's just a great way to let people know that you are the true and authoritative source of election information in your area, and there's a couple of different options here.

The first is I would recommend going to on a browser in which you are logged in to your county election office account, going to facebook.com/gpa/help. There there’s a help form that's designed specifically for government. So this is not going to Facebook's general help support, but this is a forum designed specifically for government. That's one of the best places to go to request verification.

You can also reach out directly to my team. I have sort of a large regionally divided team. so I won't read off everyone's emails here, but I can always get you to the right person. You can get me at eguidarini@fb.com. Just shoot us over a link to your account, and we're happy to help you get that blue badge verification.

Brianna Lennon: And I think that that has been very, very helpful for a lot of local authorities that have been trying to push back about things. That badge – it doesn't sound like it would be… just having a little checkbox next to your name doesn't sound like it would be a huge deal, but people really take that seriously when they're looking for information. Do you have any kind of sense of how often offices have been using the voting alerts tools and things like that?

Eva Guidarini: Yeah, absolutely. I actually have one of my favorite internal tools that an engineer built for me. I have a little bot that sends me a little ping on our internal messenger service every time a voting alert goes off. So, I like just get to sort of watch them all day.

So, it's very time dependent, as you can imagine. Tuesdays over the last few months – it's been a very, very active tool. We've had lots and lots of primaries. So, it's been used a lot. It was also used a lot actually in 2021. I think one of the places where this tool is particularly powerful is in local elections that don't get a lot of press and don't have a lot of turnout, right?

The ability to blast information to everyone about registration deadlines, voting locations, upcoming things on your ballot – I think is really powerful. Particularly, in elections that aren't getting a lot of attention. So, we actually saw it used a decent amount in 2021, and then we also had several big elections in Virginia, New Jersey, California, and other places that year, but it's been very active this year during the primary cycle.

Like I said, tends to be like the day before and day of an election. A major primary election, it tends to be particularly busy. But then we also see stuff coming in around major voter registration deadlines and sort of other big moments in the cycle. So, it's been quite busy – both the state level and the local level.

Brianna Lennon: Well, that's really good to hear.

Eric Fey: Hello, I'm Eric Fey, Director of Elections in St. Louis County, Missouri. And you're listening to High turnout Wide Margins, a Podcast where we explore local election administration.

Brianna Lennon: I kept waiting for an opportunity to use the voting alert, but we never really had that many things that changed. So, we hadn't used it, but I am, I guess, looking forward to being able to use it because I think that it's going to be a really good tool for getting people information they need very quickly.

Eva Guidarini: Yeah, absolutely and we actually expanded the rules in 2021, as well, to allow election offices to use it to recruit poll workers if they need that as well. I know the shortage isn't quite the same situation that we were looking at in 2020, but if your office is in need of recruiting poll workers. Again, this is a tool you can use to send out that message to recruit poll workers to everyone in your community, as well. If you're facing a poll worker shortage or just looking to recruit some more folks to have on your list – this tool is also an option for that.

Brianna Lennon: When it gets used, does it look like it's coming directly from the County Clerk page?

Eva Guidarini: Yes, so it's a notification will land in someone's like notification tray on Facebook, and it will say something along the lines of like “the Smith County Clerk's Office has issued a voting alert for Johnson Township.” It'll give you sort of where it's issued for, but yes, it comes from the page and then when you click on that, you land on the page post. So, yes, it looks like it's coming from the election office – it is coming from the election office.

Brianna Lennon: Oh, that's great, because I think some sometimes what a lot of offices have – because we don't have social media managers lots of the times, we don't even have people that have that much experience using their own social media – is trying to drive traffic or interest in our pages, because they're not particularly exciting things.

Have you seen examples as you've been working with the state or any kind of locals that have done a particularly good job or something that sticks out to you as something that could be copied in different places? That worked kind of effectively?

Eva Guidarini: Yeah, that's a great question. So, I think there's a couple of things I would flag. I think the first is that – so I think the verification is a great sort of first step piece there. I absolutely understand that like nobody here, or most folks in this space, don't have time or resourcing for anything, sort of a truly dedicated social media presence.

I think really aiming for one post a day – if that's something you can share – is a great sort of place to sort of be focused on and keeping that present sort of active even though it's not like multiple posts a day throughout sort of across time. Rather than stopping and starting at as you get close to election cycles, I think it can be hard to rebuild an audience.

I think voting alerts are actually a really great tool here because they draw – people don't have to be following your page to get an alert, right? This will draw a bunch of folks to your page whether or not they follow the page or the account. Anyone can click on that notification and come through to your page. So, that's also a great way to just drive additional folks to your page.

And then the other thing I would say is to really focus on storytelling. Focusing on members of your community and ways you can sort of – rather than just giving dry facts – telling stories about how different voter protection programs you have, how different accessibility measures you have at the polls, or helping specific individuals. I think as much as you can really personify, and story tell around the account – the better the account tends to perform.

We've worked with a bunch of different folks who I think have great accounts. I really like the Washington State Elections page. It's obviously a statewide page, not a local page. But I think that they do a really great job, and they have fun graphics. I think they do great storytelling. They have like a sort of fun voice and a very sort of consistent design scheme. I think they do a really great job on that account. But I think there are lots of folks who are doing great work.

I love Frankl LaRose's content in Ohio. I think he does a really fantastic job of just like really making it feel personal, and really taking folks behind the scenes as he's doing things like inspecting voting machines and other content. I think it's really great. It's really low-fi. It's all from a phone. So, I think there's a bunch of different options here, and I think the Washington state elections page is a little bit more formal and institutional. But I think they're both done really well.

Brianna Lennon: Those are both great examples, and I know both, I think, are active on other platforms too. So, I've definitely used some of their materials, or at least some of their messaging to try to kind of copy and steal it into stuff that can work for us.

Eva Guidarini: I absolutely think, and I think like sharing across, right? There's no sense in everybody creating a graphic, right? And I know that there are national level groups, we're actually talking to some folks at the Elections Assistance Commission, the EAC – I know the Help America Vote Day is coming up next week, and they've created a bunch of materials for that, and I think as much resource sharing can happen, that's always a good deal. A lot of the messages you're trying to get out are very similar, and there's no sense in people creating, you know, 79 different graphics to get across the same message.

Brianna Lennon: So, I want us to shift a little bit to talking about misinformation specifically. So, one of the things that I hear a lot of my colleagues talk about is they can see when misinformation starts, or they can see posts that just have incorrect information.

And they try either by commenting on it, or by putting out their own information about it to try to correct that. But what can they do, you know, if it rises to a level of getting particularly pervasive or you're seeing kind of like, “oh, I see that in another state and now it's being copied here” – even though it has nothing to do with our state. What are some – what some advice that we can give to local election authorities?

Eva Guidarini: Yes, I think the first thing I would say is report it to us so that if it violates our community standards, we can get it down. We don't allow any content on our platform that misrepresents the means, methods, or qualifications for voting, which is, I think, a lot of that sort of misinformation that we see.

So, there are a couple of different ways you can report it to us. If you already have a point of contact on my team – send it directly to them. If you don't, you can send it – I know I gave my email earlier, you can send it directly to me at eguidarini@fb.com – and I will get you to the right POC [point of contact] on my team.

The folks at the EI-ISAC also have a fantastic reporting channel, and they send any reports that they get directly through to the right POC on my team, as well. So, if you'd rather report through them, they can also get you to us. There's a bunch of different ways to get to us, but don't just report in-app – come directly to us we're happy to help, and these are reports that we will absolutely be prioritizing through the end of the election. So, please feel free to come directly to me and my team so that we can help you out with that.

I think voting alerts is another great powerful tool in this space. I think it's fantastic to be posting on your page and getting out right the correct information. But go ahead and make that a voting alert, right? Blast that out to everybody in your community so that they're seeing from the official source that like this is the truth. So, I think those are two different ways.

Let's get down the bad stuff, but also use the tools that we have for you to – for free broadcast out the good stuff, as well.

Brianna Lennon: If you've dealt with misinformation before, then I think people have kind of come up with some plans, but there's a lot of us too that are just kind of waiting to see if we end up on the receiving end of misinformation and bad information and things like that. Is there anything proactive that we can do in the meantime? Is there anything that we should be watching for? Or doing to try to prevent that from happening?

Eva Guidarini: Yeah, I would think about if you guys are seeing trends – even if they're not on social media, in other places about misinformation specific to certain parts of your election process – but I honestly think the thing that I always find most helpful is when there is clear information and easily understandable and not written in legalese information about the actual rules for how to participate in your election.

I know that that is always super helpful for me and other social media companies – when we're looking at content and trying to decide if it violates. We're doing a lot of proactive searching for misinformation as well, right? Like, we don't want to just rely on you guys sending it to us once it's already a problem. We really want to be proactively looking for this, and oftentimes we're looking for sort of the government source of truth about when is the early voting deadline in Massachusetts, right?

We're really looking for that information, and having sort of very clear, easy to understand, written at a reading level that like most voters will understand , information readable on a cell phone on your website – but I think really having like a website or a social account that has really clearly laid out and easy to understand information about all your rules, gives you all the things that you need to point people back to.

Then, you can just very easily be in the comment section and being like, “yep, here's our voter guide,” Like here’s linking folks to the sort of clear and easy to understand source of information. But I think sometimes a real challenge with election information is that it can be written because it is incredibly complex, right?

These are hard, complex rules, but it can sometimes be written in a way that is really hard for folks to understand and engage with. So, I think making sure that you guys have on your official government website on your Facebook page, like a really clear source of truth. I think is a great way to sort of have a strong base going into the cycle.

Brianna Lennon: I think that's a really great point too that sometimes gets missed. When we're talking about social media, the core content is still not really coming from social media, you know, it's your own educational content and website that you need to have good things to point people to, and it can't all just live on your Facebook page or your Twitter or something like that. You have to have something that it's driving to, which sometimes I feel like gets lost, you know, people are like, “oh, I want to be on social media, so I have to, like create entirely new content and do all of this work and only live there.” But really, you want it tied back to the work that you're already doing.

Eva Guidarini: Yeah, and there's no reason why when you create content, you should get the most out of it, right? Like if you create a 30 second video on how to vote by mail, definitely post that on your Facebook, also post it on your Twitter, also post it on your website. No sense in not getting the sort of most bang out of your buck.

And I have seen folks who've done a really good job of sort of getting all their information up on their Facebook page. I think it sort of depends on the county and the place. Sometimes website infrastructure is more or less accessible to you. I think the nice thing about sort of hosting that content on Facebook or Instagram is that it can be a little bit more within your control, right? You don't need somebody who is a webmaster or something like that. But obviously, if you can also have it on a website, I think that's very, very helpful as well.

But definitely get the most out of the content that you're creating, and then sort of post it across your platforms and on your website.

Brianna Lennon: Is there anything that I missed about things that you would want local election authorities to know, just kind of heading into the 2022 midterm?

Eva Guidarini: Yeah, I think again, lean on that voting alerts tool, it's a really great one. If you're having trouble seeing it on your account, a couple of reminders. It's a tool only available to institution pages. So, it needs to be for your sort of government office. If you don't have a page like that, we can help you create one. Please reach out to me, and I'm happy to connect you to the right person on my team to help you do that.

A reminder to send content into us, we're happy to take a look at it directly. And please just reach directly out to my team, so you don't have to deal with in-app reporting when you're sort of in the heat of an election cycle.

A plea when you're reporting content to us, please send links, not screenshots. Send us a link to the direct content that you're reporting. That is the easiest way for us to track it down. We also appreciate any sort of extra context you can provide to us about why it's wrong. You guys are the experts in your elections, and you know best. So, we love to be able to sort of rely on your information.

And then I think the final plea I would make is I know that the vast majority of folks in the election space, not everyone has a two-factor authentication turned on your personal accounts. As a reminder, your personal accounts, do administer your official pages and are also obviously attached to your names, and you want to make sure that you are keeping those accounts as safe and secure as possible.

So, please make sure that those accounts are locked down ahead of the election, that everything is on private, that you have two factor authentication turned on, and that you're doing everything that you can to stay safe and secure.

Please, please, please do everything you can to protect yourselves ahead of this cycle. Lock down those accounts, make sure they're safe and secure, and on that note – if you guys are seeing any content on the platform that is at all threatening to you, other employees of your office – please also report that to us right away so that we can get that content down, as well.

Eric Fey: You've been listening to "High Turnout, Wide Margins," a podcast that explores local election administration. I'm your host, Eric Fey, alongside Brianna Lennon.

A big thanks to KBIA for making this podcast possible. Our managing editor is Rebecca Smith. Our managing producer is Aaron Hay. And our associate producers are Abigail Ruhman and Katie Quinn. This has been "High Turnout, Wide Margins." Thanks for listening.

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After serving as Assistant Attorney General in the Missouri attorney general's office and as Deputy Director of Elections in the Missouri secretary of state's office, Brianna Lennon made the decision to pursue election administration at the local level. She was elected county clerk in Boone, Missouri, in 2018, making her responsible for conducting elections for more than 120,000 registered voters.
Eric Fey is a lifelong resident of St. Louis County, Missouri, who fell in love with election administration as a teenage poll worker. He has worked in the field for a decade, and became director of elections in 2015. He’s on the executive board of the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities, and has observed elections in twelve countries, including Ukraine, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan.