Here Are The 3 Types of Misinformation Spreading After the Election

Several categories of election misinformation emerged after the counting of votes began on Tuesday, much of it targeting the swing states that remain too close to call.

Here are three types that are making the rounds on social media.

As the vote count got underway, unproven claims of ballots being found or lost — falsely held up as evidence of widespread voter fraud — began to emerge on Facebook and Twitter.

Renee DiResta, a disinformation researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory, said these posts “repurposed user-created content from Election Day, which documented one-off incidents” then aggregated them “to support claims of fraud and illegitimacy.”

This type of post sometimes used pictures to lend an air of legitimacy to the false claim. On Tuesday evening, for example, a Twitter user commented on a news article with photos showing election workers in Fairfax County, Va., carrying sealed ballot boxes. The caption falsely stated that the batch of ballots had been found “once Virginia was looking red.”

Twitter labeled the post with a notice that let people “learn about U.S. 2020 election security efforts.”

Another common type of misleading post: that fraudulent votes were added in swing states overnight, leading to a suspicious jump in vote counts, mostly for the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr. Posts reviewed by The New York Times included specific mentions of Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia.

In reality, there is nothing out of the ordinary about this process. “Processes for state elections were determined long before the first ballot was cast,” said Lisa Kaplan, the founder of Alethea Group, a company that helps fight election-related misinformation. “It’s normal to see vote count change as states follow the procedures that they determined from the outset.”

“While allegations of voter fraud should be taken seriously, those allegations are rare,” Ms. Kaplan said. “Any such claim should be taken seriously and matched with facts and evidence.”

A baseless narrative alleging that Arizona poll workers gave voters Sharpies to mark their ballots so their votes would be invalidated received more than 36,000 mentions across cable television and social media on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to an analysis by Zignal Labs, a media insights company.

Individual tweets were posted beginning on the morning of Nov. 3, according to Zignal’s data, then rose sharply after midnight on Nov. 4.

Many of the posts viewed by The Times mentioned Maricopa County and Pinal County in Arizona, among other places, and raised fears about votes not being properly counted because of the way voting machines read ballots with marker ink bleeding through the paper.

But both Arizona counties quickly debunked the idea of this being systemic voter fraud. Pinal County said people did not hand out Sharpies at polling places, and Maricopa County said using a Sharpie was safe for ballots there. Facebook said it had blocked the hashtag #Sharpiegate by early Wednesday afternoon, meaning it is not searchable on its platform.

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