Disinformation about elections spread as voters head to the polls

Disinformation about elections spread as voters head to the polls


The misleading videos, circulated months after they were shot, carried unsubstantiated allegations that Republican voters were barred from voting.

Viral tweets wove early morning mechanical problems with scheduling votes into detailed allegations of systematic fraud.

Users of the extremist pro-Trump forum urged Donald to engage in armed intervention in vote-counting centers in Georgia, advising them, “If violence intensifies, shoot first.”

The avalanche of disinformation that hit American democracy on Tuesday showed how the myths that have accumulated over the past two years have created an alternative online ecosystem where all unfavorable election outcomes are being questioned.

Paranoia and preventative efforts to distort midterm election results found perhaps the clearest expression in a headline on a website dedicated to spreading conspiracy theories about the pro-Trump siege of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, an attack propelled in large part by online misinformation. The site warned against “expecting theft”.

This expectation is no longer a marginal view. It is a political doctrine of entire segments of the country.

‘Trump’s Big Lie’ has fueled a new generation of social media influencers

“We don’t look at single narratives or false claims here and there that happen to be widespread,” said Cindy Otis, a former technology executive and CIA analyst who now researches disinformation. “We’re looking at full social media platforms, independent news commentary websites, and social media influencers who started from where ‘election fraud against conservatives’ and covered the elections from there.”

In some cases, the online conversation included calls for violence.

The encouragement for Georgia storm-screening sites came in response to news that the mail-in ballot deadline was extended for some Cobb County voters after a logistical glitch, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks online extremists. On Donald, where a lot of Planning for the Capitol January 6 The blockade took place, and some posters called on supporters in Georgia to “prepare to close and load” around polling stations in case of “scams”.

One user replied, “I hope for you, you’re willing to continue and not go back. Because there won’t be second chances so soon.” Another wrote, “We’re not doing this—again!”

Problems with machines at some voting sites in Maricopa County, home to more than half of Arizona’s voters, have become a concern of prominent right-wing voices denying the legitimacy of the 2020 election to claim without evidence that Tuesday’s vote was also fraudulent. County officials compressed That the ballot papers were not misread but rather were rejected, and that voters had multiple options to ensure their choices were reflected in the results.

Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, most Americans say democracy is under threat. These are ongoing efforts to preserve it. (Video: J.M. Rieger/The Washington Post)

Among those proactively suggesting something outrageous is happening is Blake Masters, the Arizona Republican nominee for the US Senate. Masters, who is vying to impeach Senator Mark Kelly (D-Arizona), was the front-runner to inflate suspicions, plotting accidents of mechanical errors as part of the Democrats’ stunt. “It’s hard to tell if we’re seeing incompetence or worse,” he wrote. “All we know now is that the Democrats are hoping you’ll get discouraged and come home.”

Arizona Republicans also quickly sought to portray the incidents as part of a national problem, even though their claims contradicted the facts.

A post from a Twitter account with about 30 followers, claiming voting machines are also down in Peel County, Texas, gained widespread attention after being shared by Arizona Republican Party leader Kelly Ward. “It doesn’t just happen in Arizona…” she wrote. This tweet, in turn, inspired a headline on the Gateway Pundit. “The fix is ​​there!” site claimed.

None of it was true. There are no issues with the voting machines, but rather the check-in machines, which briefly failed to appear online at eight of the county’s 42 voting stations, James Stafford, a spokesman for Peel County, told The Washington Post. The issues were addressed early Tuesday morning, Stafford said, and county officials extended voting time by an hour to give residents additional opportunities to vote.

Efforts by election officials to set expectations about how long votes will be counted have also fueled right-wing conspiracy theories.

On the former president’s clone on Twitter, his son, Donald Trump Jr., posted a slew of headlines, explaining that it was normal for the number of votes to go on all night and saying, “Vote to beat this bulls—“.

The scheduling process as of 2020 – and the “red mirage” of early voting indicating a Republican victory, only after the ballots shift to Democrats – has become a staple of right-wing skepticism, though delays in email and other ballot counts are to Largely the result of decisions in Republican states not to count votes by mail before Election Day.

The Expected delay in polling Kate Starbird, an associate professor at the University of Washington who researches online misinformation, said that counting, especially in tight races, could lead to a “prolonged period of uncertainty” that would likely lead to an incubation of rumours. She added that due to the ongoing attacks on the election administration, the “pump is already ready” for voters to believe such rumours.

After initially refusing to take action against a wave of assurances that counting days would allow Democrats to cheat, Twitter used info boxes on some of the most popular posts. “Democrats say vote count by mail could take days and weeks,” wrote one right-wing commentator, garnering thousands of shares, meaning retweets or likes. “It looks like they need time to cheat.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Social media platforms were divided on Tuesday in their approach to modifying identical content spread across the Internet.

This year, GOP election deniers got free Twitter and Facebook pass

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has refused to remove or add context to a misleading video, taken during the Texas primary in March, and which is now being redistributed on its platforms with unfounded allegations of pent-up GOP votes in Tuesday’s election. .

Video footage of a poll worker appears to tell Republicans that they cannot vote due to staff shortages. The parties were responsible for appointing election judges, who must be on site to conduct the ballot.

An Instagram account operated by a news agency that says it serves Jewish readers has reposted the video without any context about the time or location of the alleged problems. When the monitoring group Common Cause reported the video to Meta, the company replied that the content did not violate its policies, according to communications reviewed by The Washington Post. A Meta spokesperson declined to comment on the video, which achieved minimal engagement on the platform.

Twitter took a different decision on the same video, applying a label telling users that the content was “displayed out of context”. However, one post sharing the misleading claims got more than 5,000 retweets.

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