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6 Types of Misinformation to Beware of on Election Day. (And What to Do if You Spot Them.)

Category: Science & Tech,Technology

On Election Day in 2016, a Pennsylvania woman posted a viral Twitter video that claimed that her voting machine was not allowing her to vote for Donald Trump. The video was shared thousands of times online, and set off fears of a rigged election. But it turned out to be user error, as ProPublica reported. Mr. Trump also spread voting machine-related misinformation on Election Day, falsely citing reports about isolated problems with voting machines in one Utah county as evidence that problems were being reported across the entire country.

There may also be accurate reports of troubles with voting machines. Several weeks ago, Texas’s election commissioner issued an advisory after some voters reported a problem with the state’s electronic voting machines. The machines switched the votes of some people who had selected a straight-party ticket but had also pushed another button on the machine before the screen had finished rendering. In the Texas case, only a handful of complaints were received, and all of the complaining voters were able to recast their votes, according to The Washington Post.

The best thing to do, in any case, is to take extra precautions. In states that issue a paper record of electronically submitted votes, check the paper record to make sure that your choices are accurately reflected. And in the five states that provide no paper trail of votes — Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, New Jersey and Delaware — double- or triple-check your choices before submitting them. If you believe your voting machine is malfunctioning, notify a poll worker.

The 2016 election gave rise to an influx of doctored and mislabeled photos, and this year’s Election Day could be a repeat. Voters could be shown photos of long lines at polling places to discourage them from voting, or could be shown manipulated videos of malfunctioning voting machines. (This happened in Brazil last month, when a doctored video showing a voting machine automatically casting votes for a left-leaning candidate went viral on social media.)

Social networks have tried to combat the spread of false and misleading information about voting. Facebook set up a “war room” to coordinate responses to suspicious activity on Election Day, and has set up a channel where state election officials can send the company examples of voting-related misinformation they find, according to The Washington Post. Twitter has teamed with state election officials and built a portal to handle reports of voting-related disinformation on Election Day, The Post reported.

Still, it’s likely that someone will try to mislead voters through manipulated photos or videos on Election Day, so it’s best to be prepared to give extra scrutiny to everything you see.

During the 2016 election, Mr. Trump claimed without evidence that widespread voter fraud would occur. After he won the presidency but lost the popular vote, he claimed, again without proof, that millions of undocumented immigrants had cast ballots.

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