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  • Daniel Peaden, reporter

Election Disinformation

Election night is Tuesday, Nov. 3rd. In the months leading up to this final count, the American people have been awash with misinformation. Everything from misleadingly labeled ballot boxes, falsehoods about mail in voting, photographs meant to sway key voters, to felony voter intimidation, these false reports and rumors have been spreading like wildfire throughout the internet via social media, text messages, and emails.

With millions having already sent in their mail-in ballots, this information may be futile, but for those voting on election day, debunking this false information may be crucial to help voters make an informed decision.

Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, two conservative political operatives, are facing a lawsuit in New York and indictments in Ohio and Michigan for intimidating robocalls to Black voters. These calls discouraged the target demographic from voting by mail during the pandemic, spreading the falsehood that it would publicize personal information that "will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debts,” according to Business Insider.

In terms of ballot drop-off boxes, the California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and the state justice department have issued a cease-and-desist order to the California GOP to remove illegal drop boxes in Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Fresno County. The images of these boxes received by Padilla's office showed some of the boxes being labeled as official, even though they had not been placed by election officials in those areas, according to CBS News.

There were also images of supposedly discarded ballots, proving problems with mail in voting in California. In truth, these specific photographs depict old, empty envelopes from the Nov. 2018 midterms that were discarded after the vote was counted, according to the New York Times. However, the narrative took hold, rooted in President Trump's skepticism of mail in ballots.

Another common claim is that people are casting multiple votes using mail-in or absentee ballots. However, according to election experts, in a 20 year period, fraud involving mailed ballots has affected only 0.00006% of votes cast. In all states, election officials have put in place systems to ensure that each voter is able to vote only once and cannot return multiple ballots in the same envelope. The fact is, mail ballots are extremely safe and looked over with a fine toothed comb.

Major social media companies have taken steps to ensure that misinformation does not spread. While fake accounts and coordinated disinformation campaigns ran rampant in 2016, recent months have shown major social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube put in place to address issues such as direct voter suppression, incitement to violence, and outright election fraud according to the Los Angeles Times.

However, these systems aren’t perfect. Both Facebook and Twitter have come under intense scrutiny in recent days, after Twitter decided to block users from retweeting an article about Hunter Biden’s involvement with a Ukrainian natural gas company, and Facebook decided to ban new political ads beginning a week before election day.

It often becomes hard to parse the facts and truths from the lies and deceptions. But in this volatile election, it's important to stay diligent and question every piece of information that seems false and dig for the truth.

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