Harris more often the target of online misinformation than Pence: analysis

Greg Nash

Vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has been the target of misinformation propagated online more often than Vice President Pence, according to a report by a media intelligence firm.

A report from Zignal Labs, shared with The Hill on Friday, found that Harris has been targeted four times as often as Pence. She has also been the target of misinformation at four times the rate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) was in 2016 when he accompanied former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket.

The report was first obtained by The Associated Press.

More than 4 percent of the conversation on Twitter about Harris was negative or circulated misinformation, while misinformation about Pence and Kaine made up for about 1 percent of talk on Twitter during the 2016 and 2020 elections, according to Zignal Labs.

There’s also been an uptick in the overall online conversation about vice presidential candidates in 2020 compared to four years ago, with a subsequent increase in misinformation or negative storylines spreading this year, based on the report.

Various bits of misinformation have been spread about the California senator even before she was chosen to be former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate, including allegations that she is not legally eligible to run for office.

The report found more than 280,000 mentions between July 1 and Oct. 9, making up around 1.2 percent of all mentions of Harris during that time period, regarding “birtherism” or that she was “not eligible” to serve as vice president.

The misinformation surrounding baseless claims that Harris, who was born in California, was not eligible to serve as vice president did not remain in the fringe Twitter sphere. This summer, a Newsweek column by John Eastman, a conservative attorney, called into question the citizen status of Harris’s parents at the time of her birth. The article was then retweeted by Jenna Ellis, a Trump campaign adviser.

“I just heard that. I heard it today, that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” the president said at a press conference in August. “And by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, talented lawyer.”

Trump drew swift backlash from Democrats in office after he refused to disavow the racist conspiracy theory.

Harris was born Oct. 20, 1964, in Oakland. She is eligible to hold the office of vice president and would be the first woman of color to hold the position of vice president if Democrats oust Trump on Election Day.

Zignal Labs identified more than 1 million Twitter mentions since June featuring hashtags or misinformation regarding Harris. Some of the mentions were fact checks seeking to correct misinformation spread about Harris, though a majority were found to include false information about her.

“The narratives related to Kamala Harris zeroed in much more on her personal identity, especially as a woman of color,” Jennifer Granston, head of insights at Zignal Labs, told the AP.

Granston said much of the misinformation surrounding Harris’s origin of birth “eclipsed” after media fact-checking organizations debunked the claims.

The nearly 300,000 mentions of Harris regarding birtherism made up just a portion of the more than 1 million tweets with misinformation, rumor or negative storylines in the July 1 to Oct. 9 timeframe, based on the report.

During the same time period, the report identified a total of 136,884 mentions of Pence with misinformation, rumors or negative storylines.

Updated on Oct. 30 at 11:31 a.m.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Internet manipulation and propaganda Joe Biden Mike Pence misinformation politicians Tim Kaine United States presidential election Zignal Labs
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video