As Election Day gets underway in the 2018 midterm elections, right-wing misinformation and hoaxes are targeting voters on social media platforms -- including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube -- and via text messages. The right-wing misinformation campaigns include hoaxes about Democrats burning flags, lies about a gubernatorial candidate buying votes, and followers of the conspiracy theory QAnon fearmongering about violent anti-fascist groups targeting voters.
Here are some examples:
Alex Jones promoted conspiracy theories about noncitizen and dead Democratic voters on Bitchute. During a broadcast published November 6 on Bitchute, a YouTube alternative, Jones said that polling indicates a “major red wave” and claimed without evidence that “they have caught people from Texas to Maryland, Democrats organizing illegal aliens to have mailed to their address absentee ballots in the name of dead people still on the rolls,” asking, “Will the Democrats be able to steal another election?”
In Florida, some voters got a text from someone impersonating a campaign staffer for Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. The text made misleading and false claims about Gillum’s campaign promises, including that he will “raise taxes on anyone making over $25,000 a year.” As the Tampa Bay Times reported, Democrats have not proposed adding a state income tax (Florida does not current have one), and Gillum particularly has “repeatedly said that he wouldn’t propose” one. The text also mischaracterized Gillum’s position that “there is a racial element to the application” of Florida’s “stand your ground” law, falsely claiming he called it “a racist ideology.”
A member of Facebook group Drain The Swamp claimed that a report showed 1.7 million California voters were not registered.
A Twitter account posted a hoax video showing Democrats burning flags to celebrate a “blue wave.” From The Daily Beast:
One fake video that’s getting circulation on both Facebook and Twitter today purports to show CNN anchor Don Lemon laughing as Democrats burn flags in a celebration of the “blue wave.”
Twitter pulled the video from its site around 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, although it’s still on Facebook.
The video, which claims to be a scene from CNN’s “Reliable Sources” comes complete with a CNN-style chyron: “Dems celebrate 'Blue Wave' Burning Flags on Election Day.” The original version of the video has was viewed nearly 55,000 views on Twitter since being posted Monday, with the tweet promoting it retweeted nearly 5,000 times.
The video appears to have been first posted by Twitter user “@RealDanJordan,” who said it was a reason to vote for Republican candidates.
The same Twitter account pushed memes telling men to skip voting in order to help Democrats.
A user of the neighborhood social network Nextdoor posted false voter information.
Trolls claiming to be from the Russian Internet Research Agency have been spamming reporters offering to give an inside scoop on their operations.
Users of different social media platforms are attempting to revive a false claim from 2016 that billionaire philanthropist George Soros owns a specific brand of voting machines.
A member of Facebook group Brian Kemp For Georgia Governor claimed without any proof that Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is “buying votes.”
A 4chan account encouraged fellow users to post on Twitter a meme falsely claiming people can vote by text.
Conspiracy theorist “Q” encouraged supporters to be vigilant about voter fraud at the polls. On the anonymous message board 8chan, the anonymous poster known as “Q” encouraged supporters of the absurd “deep state” conspiracy theory to be vigilant about voter fraud at the polls. The conspiracy theorist pushed vague allegations of widespread voter fraud across the U.S. and stated that during the election, “uniformed and non-uniformed personnel will be stationed across the country in an effort to safeguard the public.”
A QAnon-themed YouTube channel posted a video echoing Q’s voter fraud conspiracy theories. As of this writing, the video had more than 43,300 views.
A pro-Trump Facebook page spread similar claims that fearmongered about election fraud. The page posted a screenshot from the original 8chan post that had been taken from that YouTube video:
In a QAnon Facebook group, one user claimed that voting machines in Pennsylvania were switching votes for non-Democratic candidates into votes for Democratic candidates.
Natalie Martinez, Timothy Johnson, and Melissa Ryan contributed research to this piece.