The Fight Against Election Day Falsehoods
For months now rene into colleagues. The election integrity partnership have been studying the movement of misinformation about the election we're looking specifically at things related to voting procedural misinformation about ballots about where to vote went to vote how to vote if voting is being suppressed know so that that's the area that we've chosen to focus on renee inner team collect viral stories they funnel them into a tracking system then try to answer A. Series of questions where the content come from what's the narrative? How did it spread and how fast is it spreading and with that body of data over the last couple months we started paying attention to what narratives were most prevalent, what narratives went the farthest, and then how might these narratives reappear on election day and it's not just election day renee is already seeing viral narratives unfold in early voting I saw some Videos of police officers taking p. p. e. from polling place in Brooklyn that would that went viral over the over the weekend I think it was or maybe it was yesterday. Yeah I saw that too. Are. Were having voter and there is a lot of tension on the left in particular related to police officers, and so that narrative of a police officer doing something that they weren't supposed to was read as Oh they're in the tank for trump. But what they did on the first day of early voting and you know there are certain laws about where you have to be how far you have to be from the door polling place related to electioneering, and it wasn't really clear from the video whether this fell into that category whether this was electioneering whether this was just an unfortunate encounter that got heated where the police officers overreacted and took stuff away. There are a lot of. Things about it that weren't made clear until think about twenty four hours later when the the official channels for the police precinct that was involved said actually the officer was wrong and here is here's what should have happened instead, and in those moments, there's really no way to fact check there's no way to know what actually happened in that situation until you know until the facts are revealed a couple of hours to maybe even a day later. and. So the story continues to go viral before the facts are known. You can have well intentioned misinformation where the information might be wrong but the intent is innocent or disinformation where the intent is to mislead, and it's really hard as an internet consumer to know what's what? Misinformation disinformation or something. Real Rene says tread carefully. Take a second before you share that post from a friend of a friend not just now. But after election day to everybody's got their video camera in their pocket. Which means that there's GonNa be tons and tons and tons of these primary source videos purportedly documenting. Misbehavior Malfeasance poll workers you name it and they're all going to be strung together into what's going to feel like an overwhelming swell of evidence that. For the left, the vote was suppressed for the right illegal ballots were cast and I think that's going to be one of the key challenges to contend with his. There will be machines that don't work there will be encounters between people that are hostile and inappropriate and possibly illegal. We have to expect that in a country with over one hundred, thousand pulling locations things are going to go wrong they always have gone wrong. In fact, it's just that they're isolated disparate events and we have to be careful not to read too much into them to construct a narrative that more broadly de-legitimize as the election. and. If you are the person recording something be safe, you can legitimize your content with GPS, shots without edits in between and any information that identifies where you are and who's involved because Rene as research shows that this stuff is gonNA fly around at a pace, we've never seen before. You know maybe it's because I had a baby not too long ago but I keep thinking of all of this is what to expect when you're expecting nation. It's not it's not a question of if but a question of when right we all know that this is going to be a uncertain period. We all know that they're going to be a lot. Of opportunities for videos and footage that people take to be twisted or used inappropriately for real incidents to be taken out of context and put in the context of vast broad conspiracy to erode confidence in the legitimacy of election. Overall, we know that they're going to be candidates who are going to claim victory and then insinuate that it is being stolen from them. There's one line that is in one of your reports that. Kind of startled me. and. It just feels like it's about the scope of all of this you guys wrote regardless of origins or intent these attacks on the perceived integrity of the two thousand election represent a threat to democracy itself. That feels dyer. Are you frightened? Yes I think several of us who worked on this. This is not our first election we've seen we worked two thousand eighteen midterms. We've seen elections in a number of other countries at this point and how social media narratives figure in there. It's just that this particular election is incredibly high stakes, and so I think the threat to democracy is is in part based on the idea that. Democracy implies and informed electorate. Now, that's not how it manifests all the time. You know we're not going to be naive and say that in the olden days, everybody was wildly informed the now they're not that's not true but people were not to the same extent quite actively disinformed. Democracy also relies on US believing the results. And if you have massive delegitimization, if the media and social media is used in advance for months to preemptively de-legitimize results of the election by saying any isolated ballot incident is evidence of massive voter fraud or any protests in the streets is evidence of vast color evolution coup. That means that a large large percentage of people who engage with those stories are not going to accept the outcome.