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US ELECTION

US election: A 'quiet' day for fake news

Election Day in the US saw relatively little sharing of misinformation online according to US fact-checkers. Here's some of what was going around.
Election Day in the US saw relatively little sharing of misinformation online according to US fact-checkers. Here's some of what was going around.
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Allegations of “fake news” have flown thick and fast during the 2020 US election cycle, but fact-checking journalists say Election Day was “quiet”. Supporters of Donald Trump and Joe Biden continued to share photos and videos that had been manipulated or taken out of context, but their posts were not widely shared.

The FRANCE 24 Observers team and other fact-checkers monitoring social networks on Election night found that most false posts were not widely shared, and were often recycled from earlier in the year. 

1/ The false Antifa poster

Several social media users shared a graphic showing a masked protester with a Molotov cocktail and the caption “Don’t forget to disguise yourselves as patriots/Trump supporters.” The caption continued: “The media will think there are Trump supporters rioting so it’s harder to turn popular opinion against us.” 

The graphic was in fact created in 2017, posted initially on the page “Hickman County Antifa”. The author of the original post told the debunking site Snopes that she intended the graphic as a joke and took it down when it started going viral.  

2/ A fight outside a polling station in North Carolina?

A video seen more than 14,000 times on Facebook claimed to show a fight at a polling station in North Carolina. The caption said: “BLM/Antifa/Democrat THUGS blocking polls & intimidating voters in North Carolina”.

Screenshot of video posted here.

 

The video was not filmed on Election Day. According to the Associated Press, it was filmed Oct. 31 at a get-out-the-vote rally outside a courthouse in the North Carolina city of Graham, a block away from the polling place. 

 

3/ A Trump supporter blocking a polling place?

Pro-Biden accounts shared a photograph showing a man with a “Trump 2020” flag. One post shared more than 2,600 times said in its initial version that he was blocking access to a polling place in Clifton, New Jersey. 

Clifton police told PolitiFact the incident happened Nov. 1. They said security footage showed that that the man deposited his vote in a ballot box and then held up the flag for some 40 seconds to take a photo.

4/ A wall around the White House?

Another photo shared by a pro-Biden account, this one shared more than 4,700 times, shows a high wall in front of the White House with the caption: “This is the final image of the Trump presidency.”

A reverse image search reveals that the image is a photomontage. In the original image no wall is visible. 

Protective fencing was indeed erected around the White House in the run-up to the election, but not as high as the wall in the manipulated version. 

Tweet showing fencing around the White House erected in the days before the election.

 

5/ Piles of bricks for use by rioters?

Several posts, like the one below, showed a photo of a pile of bricks outside an ice-cream shop in Illinois, an apparent reference to a frequent conspiracy theory that Black Lives Matter protesters stockpile bricks to use them as weapons. 

Independent fact-checker Michael Thalen explained in a series of tweets that the bricks were in fact being used to build a patio for the restaurant next door.

 

The bricks-as-weapons theory has been shared in recent months along with captions saying they are intended to tempt angry demonstrators to commit violence.

Calm before a 'fake news' storm?

Some US fact-checking journalists said they were surprised to see so little misinformation being shared on Election Day. 

 

Other fact-checkers however warned that the flow of misinformation could resume. Daniel Funke of PolitiFact.com told the FRANCE 24 Observers: 

 

We are concerned about a campaign coming out ahead of time saying, ‘Oh we’ve won the election’, when in fact that’s not borne out by remaining mail-in ballots or absentee ballots. 

We are still going to be on the lookout for false claims about the election even after a winner’s declared.​

>> READ MORE: The top pieces of misinformation spread in the lead up to the US election 

 

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