How some states are struggling to deal with election disinformation before the midterm mandates

In the run-up to the 2020 election, Connecticut was confronted with the falsity of online voting. One, widely viewed on Facebook, wrongly said that absentee voters were sent to the dead. On Twitter, users spread a false message that a tractor trailer carrying votes had crashed on Interstate 95, with thousands of ballot papers in the air and on the highway.

Concerned about a flood of unfounded rumors and lies about this year’s midterm elections, the state plans to spend nearly $ 2 million on marketing to share the truth about voting information and create its first position for an expert in tackling misinformation. With a salary of $ 150,000, the person is expected to comb out corner sites like 4chan, far-right social networks like Gettr and Rumble, and major social networks to root out early misinformation about voting, before it goes viral, and then ask companies. remove or mark messages with false information.

“We need to be aware of the situation by examining all threats to the integrity of the election,” said Connecticut Undersecretary of State Scott Bates. “Incorrect information can erode people’s confidence in elections, and we see this as a critical threat to the democratic process.”

Connecticut joins a few states that are preparing to face an attack on rumors and lies about this year’s election.

Oregon, Idaho, and Arizona have education and ad campaigns on the Internet, television, radio, and bulletin boards to spread accurate information about voting hours, voter eligibility, and absentee voting. Colorado has hired three cybersecurity experts to monitor misinformation sites. The California Secretary of State’s Office is seeking disinformation and is working with the Department of Homeland Security and academics to find patterns of misinformation on the Internet.

The movements of these states, for the most part under democratic control, come as voter confidence has plummeted throughout the election. In a January ABC / Ipsos poll, only 20 percent of respondents said they were “very confident” about the electoral system as a whole and 39 percent felt “relatively confident.” Many Republican candidates have accused former President Donald J. Trump of misrepresenting the 2020 election by campaigning — often successfully — to steal from him with a true proclamation.

Some conservatives and civil rights groups have almost certainly complained that efforts to curb misinformation could restrict freedom of expression. Florida, led by Republicans, has enacted legislation that limits the kind of social media moderation that sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can do, and supporters say the sites are tightening their conservative voices. At the federal level, the Department of Homeland Security recently suspended the work of a misinformation advisory committee that could remove the speech after criticism from Conservative lawmakers and critics of freedom of expression advocates.

“State and local governments are well placed to reduce the harm of misinformation and misinformation by providing timely, accurate and reliable information,” said Rachel Goodman, a lawyer for Protect Democracy, a non-partisan advocacy group. “But in order to maintain that confidence, they need to make it clear that they are not censoring or overseeing any constitutional concerns.”

Officials in Connecticut and Colorado said the problem of misinformation has only worsened since 2020 and without further push to address it, more voters could lose faith in the overall election. They also said they feared the safety of some election workers.

“We’re seeing an atmosphere of threat that this country has never seen before,” Colorado Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold said. Madam. Griswold, who will run for re-election this fall, has received threats to hold on to the results of the 2020 election, and Mr. False claims about fraudulent voting in the state.

Other state secretaries, who usually head the office overseeing the election, have received a similar setback. Georgian Republican Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who claimed President Biden had won the state, has come under heavy criticism for making false claims about the 2020 election.

In his first race this year, Mr. Raffensperger threw out misinformation: 66,000 underage voters, 2,400 unregistered voters and more than 10,350 dead in the presidential election. None of the claims are true. He won the primaries last week.

A misinformation group set up by the state of Colorado for the 2020 election is being rolled out again. The group is made up of three election security experts who monitor the misinformation on the Internet and then report it to the federal law enforcement.

Madam. Griswold will oversee the group, called the Cyber ​​Security Response Unit. He only seeks election-related misinformation on issues such as absentee voting, polling stations and eligibility, he said.

“The facts still exist and lies are being used to suppress our basic freedoms,” she said. said Griswold.

Connecticut officials say the state’s goal is to protect the Internet from election fraud. On May 7, the Connecticut legislature approved $ 2 million to conduct internet, television, mail, and radio education campaigns on the election process, and to hire an election information security officer.

Officials said they would prefer candidates to be fluent in English and Spanish in order to deal with the spread of misinformation in both languages. The officer would track viral misinformation posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and search for emerging narratives and memes, especially on social media platforms and the dark web.

“We know we can’t boil the ocean, but we need to figure out where the threat is coming from and before it metastasizes,” he said. said Bates.

Leave a Comment