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Twitter Admits to Helping Spread Election Disinformation During Iowa Caucuses

People leave the caucus night party of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) after the results of the caucus were delayed on February 03, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.
People leave the caucus night party of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) after the results of the caucus were delayed on February 03, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty

The Washington Post’s Tony Romm reported on Monday night that Twitter has decided it will allow certain right-wing accounts to spread disinformation about the Iowa Democratic Caucuses, including tweets that suggest the results are being “rigged.”

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Trump campaign manager Brad Pascal tweeted on Monday, “Quality control = rigged?,” citing a second Trump campaign official who had used the hashtag #RiggedElection.

There is no evidence of vote tampering in Iowa and the Trump campaign’s claims are entirely baseless. (Technical issues with an app used by election officials have caused delays in tallying the results.)

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Twitter’s decision would seem to provide political fraudsters with a clear message: deceiving voters into believing U.S. election results have been falsified is an acceptable use of the platform.

A Twitter spokesperson told Gizmodo that the company does not believe viral tweets falsely claiming people’s votes are worthless in the hours preceding an election will discourage them from voting.

Earlier in the day, Charlie Kirk, the leader of a college-focused conservative group called Turning Point USA, tweeted that Iowa election officials were involved in “voter fraud” citing a debunked report by the right-wing activist group Judicial Watch.

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The Judicial Watch report falsely claimed that the number of registered voters in Iowa exceeded the number of voting-age residents in each county. Judicial Watch’s fake figures were quickly shot down by Iowa’s Republican secretary of state, Paul D. Pate.

“It’s unfortunate this organization continues to put out inaccurate data regarding voter registration, and it’s especially disconcerting they chose the day of the Iowa Caucus to do this,” Pate said in a statement.

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Caucus goers listen to instructions on February 3, 2020 in Carpenter, Iowa. Iowa is the first contest in the 2020 presidential nominating process with the candidates then moving on to New Hampshire.
Caucus goers listen to instructions on February 3, 2020 in Carpenter, Iowa. Iowa is the first contest in the 2020 presidential nominating process with the candidates then moving on to New Hampshire.
Photo: Steve Pope (Getty

Pate continued: “My office has told this organization, and others who have made similar claims, that their data regarding Iowa is deeply flawed and their false claims erode voter confidence in elections. They should stop this misinformation campaign immediately and quit trying to disenfranchise Iowa voters.”

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The Iowa secretary of state’s office pointed to “actual data” from the U.S. Census Bureau to say Judicial Watch’s claims about Iowa’s population are “greatly underestimated.” Nevertheless, Kirk’s tweet invoking the debunked claim had garnered more than 42,500 retweets at press time.

Twitter’s claim that such tweets do not “suppress voter turnout” is unlikely to go unchallenged by federal lawmakers who view this particular form of deception as an attempt to discourage participation in a “rigged” election.

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The underlying message being propagated by the Trump campaign, Judicial Watch, and Turning Point USA seems an obvious one: Your vote doesn’t count, so why bother?

Senior Reporter, Privacy & Security

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DISCUSSION

imnotdedyet
David E. Davis

Every day I’m reminded that Twitter has little value and should be taken behind the barn and shot.