Conspiracy theories are predictable. Here are some of the things you’ll see on Election Day


In 2016, a machine apparently blocked a vote for Donald Trump. In 2018, a video allegedly showed votes being changed. In 2020, he said a video showed him burning votes.

They were all fake, and none of them showed what they said they showed, but in the days leading up to the Election and in the days after, they accumulated millions of views, clicks and shares on social media.

On this election day: when tens of millions of people are voting on a continent and in foreign territories, all can’t go well.

However, the overwhelming majority of Americans will do their civic duty and vote without a problem. But in the age of social media and a concerted effort by some to undermine faith in American elections, it’s the irregularities that garner attention.

There are different types of hoaxes that go viral on election day; that’s where the difference between disinformation and disinformation comes in. Misinformation is false information that the creator or sharer does not necessarily know to be false. Disinformation is the deliberate creation and sharing of false information.

An example of disinformation is a 12-second video that was widely shared on Election Day 2016. A Pennsylvania man tweeted a video he said showed a voting machine not allowing him to vote for then-candidate Trump — repeatedly pressing a button. for Trump, but the machine selection still read Clinton.

The video spread like wildfire on Twitter, seen by some as evidence of a widespread anti-Trump fraud problem in Pennsylvania. But it wasn’t. (By the way, Trump won the state)

CNN spoke with the man who posted the video. He explained that his problem with the machine was quickly resolved when he asked an election worker for help.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, election judges explained that if a candidate’s button was accidentally pressed, they would have to press that button again to deselect that candidate before choosing another.

That’s what happened to this man. When her tweet blew up and became the talk of the internet, she posted: “Everybody is saying I said the machine was tampered with and I never said that, it was weird how it happened.”

Then there are the more cynical things. Not just a confused voter who posts on social media and inadvertently creates more confusion.

On Election Day 2020, a video surfaced online showing him setting fire to a bag full of ballots marked for Trump.

The video was a hoax and was debunked by censors on election day, but it continued to spread online and the next day, the then-president’s son, Eric Trump, retweeted a version of the video that had about 1.2 million views.

Although Eric Trump probably did not know the video was fake, the people who created and staged the video were engaged in the production of disinformation.

what to do

The old maxim, “A lie can go around the world and back while the truth ties its boots” is never more appropriate than on Election Day.

Videos, tweets, Facebook and WhatsApp posts will pop up alleging all sorts of things, and in a highly charged political climate we want to believe them, let alone share them.

There will also be many false claims about the vote counting process. Some will say the failure to report all the results on election night is evidence of something fishy – election officials have repeatedly warned that in some cases the counting process could take days, not hours.

There will be newsrooms to separate fact from fiction, but that takes time. When CNN looked at the Pennsylvania machine that supposedly didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, we had to figure out where the video was recorded, we had to try to talk to election officials who work at that polling place, talk to state election officials. , and talk to the person who posted the video. Meanwhile, the video got thousands of views.

What is different between 2016 and now? There is a much more sophisticated machine designed to undermine your confidence in American elections. Thus, we will see a lot of misinformation this Election Day.

This does not mean that there will not be irregularities and attempts at fraud. On this election day, CNN has deployed hundreds of people to investigate voting issues.

When election officials mess up, we’ll report on it (as we did in Georgia on Saturday). When there are serious allegations of fraud, we’ll report on that too (as we did in Wisconsin on Thursday).

America’s electoral process is imperfect. There are tens of thousands of different cities, counties and municipalities across the 50 states and territories responsible for administering elections, most of which do things a little differently. There are different voting and counting machines, different local election laws and procedures. There will be confusion, there will be mistakes.

But there are also thousands of dedicated election officials and volunteers who work tirelessly to make our elections free and fair. Don’t let a few viral videos undermine your confidence in them.