Trolls Take to Twitter to Confuse Voters

Protesters listen as actress Frances Fisher speak in support of Bernie Sanders backed by his supporters during a downtown rally in Los Angeles, California on May 19, 2016, to bring attention to voter suppression in Nevada. / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

#FightForYourVote. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

All you have to do to find voter suppression efforts on Twitter right now is put in the words “vote” and “Wednesday” in the site’s search bar and you will see lots of new attempts at voter suppression. Mostly, the posts advise Democrats to vote on Wednesday.

Buzzfeed put up a thorough story yesterday about similar tactics, primarily focusing on sites attempting to convince Democrats that they could vote via text message. Some posts also attempted to convince supporters of Hillary Clinton that they would need to bring multiple forms of identification to vote.

Searching for “text” and “vote” right now largely shows people debunking the idea that votes can be cast by SMS. Additionally, one account featured prominently in the Buzzfeed story Sunday has since been suspended.

Very few of the deceptive posts about Wednesday voting that one finds on social media come from accounts that have much of a following. Kristen Clarke, who runs the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, flagged this tweet from an account that has 117,000 followers, however. The account is primarily devoted to advice on getting tickets for country music events. Ms. Clarke told the Observer in a phone call that her organization is “concerned about the potential for these posts to go viral.”

@FrontRowNews on election eve.

@FrontRowNews on election eve. Screenshot

This account, while it has a decent following, doesn’t get much engagement. The account’s followers seem to largely ignore it, except when it posts early Taylor Swift photos.

Clarke retweeted a number of posts like the one above on her Twitter feed yesterday, flagging them as false.

There’s a decent number of posts telling Democrats to vote on Wednesday that appear to know the messages won’t amount to much more than a dumb joke, such as @evolvevangelist who appended two crying-laughing emoji at the end of his misleading post:

Crying laughing.

Crying laughing. Screenshot

Also, Funny or Die actor and writer Luke Barnett (who has 4,094 followers) appears to be trying to counter-suppress the votes for Donald Trump, by posting the same message in a slightly more subtle way.

Luke Barnett.

Luke Barnett. Screenshot

A quick scan of Barnett’s other posts show that he isn’t really on the #TrumpTrain.

Generally speaking, Democrats do better as voter turnout rises, so it’s no accident that it tends to be Republican supporters who put out these messages (since it isn’t generally in Democrats’ interest to do so). Voter suppression efforts happen in every election and take a variety of forms, including in this election, as Alice Speri has reported for The Intercept.

But voters who want to #MAGA aren’t the only ones attempting to troll the vote. We found one woman with 15,000 Twitter followers who attempted to confuse Trump voters.

Someone named Elizabeth on Twitter.

Someone named Elizabeth on Twitter. Screenshot

Just in case this isn’t completely clear: the election for U.S. President (and all the other races, from Congress to your reps in the state legislature) is over and done tomorrow. There will be no more voting after that, anywhere, for any of these elected leaders.

And don’t blame technology for this abuse. There’s a much stronger and more organized effort to use tech to generate as much voting as possible.

By the way, if you’re reading this and you’re not old enough to vote for the U.S. President, but you are eligible to vote for junior prom queen in Honolulu, then be sure to get out there and cast your ballot for Madison on Wednesday. That Wednesday election looks pretty legit.

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