The danger of disinformation lies not only in the infrastructure of the electoral process, but also in the minds of voters, writes The New York Times summary. As a result, trust in democratic institutions and processes is declining. The goal of the United States ’foreign enemies is simple: to create confusion and further strengthen the existing divisions so that the country collapses under the weight of questioning its democracy.
The tools for this are, moreover, democratic values such as freedom of expression and the free flow of information.
The NYT is reminiscent of the St. Petersburg troll factory, whose staff inflated pre-existing American differences during the 2016 presidential election, fueled tensions, and sought to help Trump into the presidency. Countless accounts have been created on social networks that have posted fake content, and many of them have had hundreds of thousands of followers.
Since 2016, platforms for the publication of misleading content, such as Facebook and Twitter, have gradually tightened content regulations, taken measures against bogus news, but even so, the 2020 presidential election has not developed a single social networking directive in America.
Social sites are much tougher against sources they can link to foreign actors, but it’s different if the source of the misleading content is within the United States. Neither Facebook nor Twitter want to please themselves as tellers of the truth, and they are wary of being accused of censorship. They continue to refer to free speech even when misleading content appears on their platforms.
And the Russian scenario has been embraced by both political actors and individuals, Clair Wardle, a disinformation expert, told NYT.
The U.S. newspaper cited the example of Kentucky’s election as governor of what a mess it could be to cause even a harmless post if it spreads on the World Wide Web at the right time.
Republican candidate Matt Bevin competed with Democrat Andy Beshear for the governor’s seat, and the competition was particularly tight. By the time it looked like Bevin was going to lose, Republican voters were beginning to voice their skepticism on social media. How can you be a Democratic governor of a state that has always been a Republican? Are Democrats cheating? Voters were looking for answers. Any false news or misinformation could have spread epidemically.
A college student thousands of miles from Kentucky using an account called Luis, who told the U.S. newspaper Luis, did nothing special on election day, just went up to Twitter and saw that there was a lot of competition for the southern state governor. Then he decided, out of curiosity and for fun, to move his location to Kentucky and posted:
The state election committee found the tweet an hour after the urn closures, signaling the post to Twitter, which it immediately deleted. But it was too late.
Bevin’s supporters saved the post and began circulating it on the World Wide Web, which reached tens of thousands. Luis’s tweet intended as a joke spread like wildfire. The election committee asked Twitter to delete these re-shared posts, but the social network operator refused to do so, saying the posts were comments from the original tweet, so it didn’t violate their rules.
And the deliberate misrepresentation suddenly became an unintentional misrepresentation, with countless election fraud stories circulating on the social network based on Luis ’post. This, in turn, reached Bevin, who questioned the results unspoken but at the end of election day, citing the post.
After that, Bevin’s supporters, citing an election fraud, demanded a recount of the votes and it took nine days for the Republican candidate to accept his defeat.