Denver election officers started getting stories of voter intimidation at two drop bins on Tuesday, simply days after most voters started receiving their ballots. Inside hours, the rumors of voting issues had been spreading throughout social media.
The Denver Workplace of the Clerk and Recorder reviewed video of the drop field areas and located no proof something inappropriate occurred, however that didn’t forestall probably 1000’s of individuals from seeing the unsubstantiated stories on Nextdoor and Fb.
The specter of misinformation and disinformation is actual in 2020.
It’s a nationwide phenomenon: Concerns about voter suppression and voter fraud are heightened because the nation speeds towards a very divisive election, and incorrect stories — regardless of how well-intentioned — unfold shortly on social media. However some stories are much less harmless, with unhealthy actors utilizing social media platforms reminiscent of Fb and Twitter to extend mistrust and confusion, in accordance with election officers and civic teams who’re making an attempt to fight these efforts.
Denver officers checked safety footage of the complete day on the two recreation facilities the place voter intimidation was reported, mentioned spokesperson Alton Dillard. Colorado’s poll drop bins have safety cameras, and workers within the clerk’s workplace can monitor that footage at any time.
“As a result of we’re three weeks from a significant election, we’re taking it significantly,” Dillard mentioned. “We aren’t simply blowing it off.”
Denver Clerk and File Paul López acknowledged the sort of misinformation can unfold shortly, so voters ought to make certain to examine with their clerk’s workplace in the event that they see something regarding.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold mentioned the state additionally has not confirmed any circumstances of voter intimidation, only one report out of Larimer County over confusion between state and municipal poll drop bins,.
Russian meddling in the 2016 election by way of disinformation campaigns has induced widespread concern a couple of repeat in 2020. Disinformation is intentionally false data; misinformation is fake however wasn’t created to mislead folks.
Numerous teams and authorities businesses have made it their mission to fight the unfold of unhealthy data, however with few controls on social media, they face an uphill battle.
“I believe we’re going to want to begin pondering of this as one of many prices of our democracy,” mentioned Kelly Hupfeld, affiliate dean of the Faculty of Public Affairs on the College of Colorado Denver. “So long as we’re going to have this dedication to free speech, and specifically political free speech, that is the burden of a voter.”
Elections officers throughout the nation additionally routinely obtain intelligence stories about international actors and cybercriminals. Final month, the FBI and Cybersecurity and Intelligence Company warned of newly created web sites, adjustments to current web sites and false data being unfold “in an try to discredit the electoral course of and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic establishments.”
Griswold, a Democrat, mentioned she worries about continued Russian interference, and she or he blames the federal authorities for not investing in cybersecurity in addition to the president for undermining religion in democracy by means of the election. Disinformation will not be solely deceptive, however international actors meddling in elections turns into a nationwide safety concern.
This yr, Griswold added a brand new speedy response safety staff to her workplace that works with counties on addressing rising threats, together with disinformation.
Each misinformation and disinformation campaigns have been constructing in society, notably during the last 10 years with the rise of social media, Hupfeld famous.
It began with political flyers in mailboxes that made claims in opposition to opposing candidates, Hupfeld mentioned. However as social media grew in recognition, folks realized its energy to sway and “to actually take away the muse of a standard fact from us.”
Individuals are relying much less on beforehand trusted sources reminiscent of native authorities and native newspapers, Hupfeld mentioned, and as an alternative on social media, the place data will not be verified. Elections officers in Colorado have been urging voters to go on to the secretary of state’s website or county web sites for election data and report any elections considerations to them instantly.
Specialists shared these tricks to keep away from falling for disinformation or misinformation:
- Be skeptical and don’t instantly share content material. If one thing elicits a robust emotional response, make certain to test it out and confirm from different sources.
- If one information group stories one thing and others haven’t verified it inside hours, it will not be appropriate.
- For those who see a political image or meme, do a reverse picture search to ensure it hasn’t been taken out of context.
- Acknowledge that political content material on social media is commonly focused — you didn’t simply occur to come back throughout it.
- Go on to the supply when attainable, notably after seeing one thing on social media, reminiscent of checking an elections web site for outcomes.
- For those who see one thing regarding associated to voting, contact your county clerk’s workplace instantly.
- Discover extra ideas at https://coloradomediaproject.com/misinfowatch.
Social media corporations reminiscent of Twitter and Fb at the moment are making some effort to vet content material — although Hupfeld says it might be too little, too late for this election.
No matter Colorado voters see on social media, they need to relaxation assured that their elections are among the many most secure within the nation, Griswold harassed.
“Folks nonetheless have the ability,” she mentioned. “They simply must make a plan to vote, vote early and mail their poll if obtainable (of their state).”
When you’ve got questions or considerations about voting within the 2020 election, textual content them to 303-871-1491. Assist journalists and the general public hold observe of any points throughout early voting or on Election Day. Voters can connect movies, pictures, or descriptions of what they see and listen to from now by means of Nov. 3 — or when poll counting is completed. Greater than 60 information organizations throughout Colorado will likely be monitoring these texts as a part of the Colorado News Collaborative.
Reporter Conrad Swanson contributed to this story.