Election Day misinformation spreads on social media

Election Day misinformation spreads on social media
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Notable hoaxes could be found on social media on Election Day, even as tech companies said they were working to crack down on misinformation.

A pro-QAnon Twitter account on Tuesday posted a false video of a voting machine in Ohio that appeared to have changed a Republican vote to a one for a Democrat.

A Franklin County, Ohio board of elections spokesperson told The New York Times's Kevin Roose that the video was incorrect and the voting issues the result of a printer error.

Wired also spotted a Facebook post falsely claiming that a modern-day version of the Black Panthers are “armed with assault weapons roaming the streets and neighborhoods as well as the voting polls in Georgia to intimidate" and "persuade" Voters to vote” for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

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A best selling conservative author, Larry Schweikart, posted a hoax tweet, claiming that "illegals" were being bussed to the polls and paid to vote for Democratic Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke.

"Well, it’s just a report. Hey, fake news, right?" Schweikart told BuzzFeed News when asked about the veracity of his post.

"I’m only countering what goes on on the other side. The New York Times has yet to retract one in a billion articles so, no, it wouldn’t bother me," he said about pushing a false tweet.

The troubling examples come even as social media companies and the government said ahead of the election that they would be alert to such misinformation.

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Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump casts uncertainty over top intelligence role Juan Williams: Trump, his allies and the betrayal of America Trump taps Texas Rep. Ratcliffe to replace Dan Coats as top intelligence official MORE said on Tuesday that “increased social media activity” pushing inaccurate information about the midterms had been reported to the agency.

"We expect to continue to see efforts by, in particular, Russian actors to push propaganda, to push misinformation, overstate capabilities, things of that nature,” a DHS official told reporters on a Tuesday night press call.

Third-party firms also worked to identify misinformation efforts quickly.

On Tuesday night, Recorded Future, an internet threat and intelligence firm, said that it was tracking a set of accounts it believes to be of Russian origin that were pushing narratives of voter fraud and hyper-partisan pro-Republican and pro-Trump messages on social media.

Priscilla Moriuchi, Recorded Future’s director of strategic threat development, told The Hill the vast majority of accounts the firm was tracking were pushing pro-right wing messages.

She noted that instead of pushing fake news stories like accounts did around the 2016 election, the accounts they were following instead were posting hyper-partisan captions on news stories from legitimate and mainstream outlets, blurring the line between real stories and misleading content.

Also unlike 2016, the accounts appeared to be more sophisticated in representing themselves as legitimate Americans by including pictures in their profiles and labeling themselves as people in the U.S.

Twitter accounts linked to the Russian Internet Research Agency during the 2016 vote by contrast often had profiles without pictures and vaguer descriptions of their location.

Moriuchi said that by mid-afternoon, the accounts had begun coalesce around stories of voter fraud in states including Texas, Ohio and Florida where Democrats had hoped to win key races.

Social media companies have been taking action.

Facebook on Monday removed 30 accounts on its platform along with another 85 on Instagram after the accounts were flagged by U.S. law enforcement on Sunday.

“We immediately blocked these accounts and are now investigating them in more detail,” Facebook’s chief of security, Nathaniel Gleicher wrote on Monday.

Jacqueline Thomsen contributed.