FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2022
By Christiana Hadjipavlis
NEW YORK – This past election day, thousands of Tweets spreading misinformation on the elections were posted online. As discovered by the Election Integrity Partnership, an alliance of online information researchers, over 40,000 posts were made about malfunctioning voting machines in Maricopa County, Arizona within the span of two hours. Additionally, as revealed by the research group Zignal, almost 19,000 Tweets mentioned words such as “fraud” and “cheating” alongside Maricopa, referencing the debunked belief that the issues in the county’s voting machines were signs of widespread voter fraud. As election day progressed, groundless claims about issues at various polling sites, bad voting protocol advice, and inaccurate assumptions about footage and anecdotes were circulating on Twitter.
Elon Musk recently acquired Twitter and one of his first acts as the owner of the social media platform was to purge half of its workers to cut costs. Election day was an opportunity to see how well Twitter would combat misinformation and toxic speech under its new leadership, but the results were less than favorable. While the circulation of misinformation on election day has grown increasingly common, researchers say that what transpired on Twitter during election day was worse than anticipated. The day following the elections, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of Global Trust and Safety took to Twitter to provide an update. Roth, who also helps manage content moderation, explained via a post that Twitter had “not only mitigated the recent surge in harmful behavior” but also limited the number of times the content was accessed in the platform’s search function by 95 percent.
On election day, misinformation researchers attempted to get Twitter’s attention to take down uncredited rumors and lies. Unfortunately, many posts had already gone viral, potentially deceiving voters. The situation was escalated by right-wing podcasts and publications, providing fuel for increasing calls for protests, recalls, and arrests. Republican Kristina Karamo made the baseless claim that a software glitch in Detroit was evidence of voter fraud to her Twitter followers. Another viral tweet, which was later removed, included a video of a “masked man cheating in front of the cameras” in Philadelphia. However, this masked man turned out to be a poll worker in Wisconsin performing the standard procedure of initialing ballots for voters.
Ifeoma Okwuka, Director of Media Relations at Teens for Press Freedom, added, “Twitter’s failure to minimize the spread of misinformation on its platform on Election day is both worrying and disappointing. It is intolerable for any social media platform to serve as a breeding ground for false and divisive information.
"It is imperative that media platforms strive to be preventative in their approaches to handling misinformation rather than reactive. And it is equally important that voters remain wary of the varying falsehoods that are so often made readily available online.”