Denver election officials began getting reports of voter intimidation at two drop boxes on Tuesday, just days after most voters began receiving their ballots. Within hours, the rumors of voting problems were spreading across social media.
The Denver Office of the Clerk and Recorder reviewed video of the drop box locations and found no evidence anything inappropriate happened, but that didn’t prevent possibly thousands of people from seeing the unsubstantiated reports on Nextdoor and Facebook.
The threat of misinformation and disinformation is real in 2020.
It’s a national phenomenon: Concerns about voter suppression and voter fraud are heightened as the nation speeds toward a particularly divisive election, and incorrect reports — no matter how well-intentioned — spread quickly on social media. But some reports are less innocent, with bad actors using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to increase distrust and confusion, according to election officials and civic groups who are attempting to combat those efforts.
Denver officials checked security footage of the entire day at the two recreation centers where voter intimidation was reported, said spokesperson Alton Dillard. Colorado’s ballot drop boxes have security cameras, and staff in the clerk’s office can monitor that footage at any time.
“Because we’re three weeks from a major election, we’re taking it seriously,” Dillard said. “We are not just blowing it off.”
Denver Clerk and Record Paul López acknowledged this type of misinformation can spread quickly, so voters should make sure to check with their clerk’s office if they see anything concerning.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said the state also has not confirmed any cases of voter intimidation, just one report out of Larimer County over confusion between state and municipal ballot drop boxes,.
Russian meddling in the 2016 election via disinformation campaigns has caused widespread concern about a repeat in 2020. Disinformation is deliberately false information; misinformation is false but wasn’t created to mislead people.
Various groups and government agencies have made it their mission to combat the spread of bad information, but with few controls on social media, they face an uphill battle.
“I think we’re going to need to start thinking of this as one of the costs of our democracy,” said Kelly Hupfeld, associate dean of the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver. “As long as we are going to have this commitment to free speech, and in particular political free speech, this is the burden of a voter.”
Elections officials across the country also routinely receive intelligence reports about foreign actors and cybercriminals. Last month, the FBI and Cybersecurity and Intelligence Agency warned of newly created websites, changes to existing websites and false information being spread “in an attempt to discredit the electoral process and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions.”
Griswold, a Democrat, said she worries about continued Russian interference, and she blames the federal government for not investing in cybersecurity as well as the president for undermining faith in democracy through the election. Disinformation is not only misleading, but foreign actors meddling in elections becomes a …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – Politics