As if the Iowa caucus wasn’t fraught enough with all the app reporting drama, it’s also been the source of a ton of misinformation campaigns.
Hours before the caucus began Monday, Judicial Watch, a conservative group known for spreading misinformation, declared that there were at least eight counties in Iowa where the number of registered voters exceeded the number of voting-age residents.
Iowa’s secretary of state Paul Pate–who is a Republican–offered up the data to prove that claim was totally false but it didn’t matter. The conspiracy exploded on Twitter and Facebook, with a number of public figures, including Sean Hannity, sharing it. Before the caucus had even started, the lie had already morphed into a larger behemoth. I saw some people on Twitter claiming those eight counties had DOUBLE the number of eligible voters registered which is a hell of a growth spurt, even for a conspiracy theory.
.@seanhannity It’s disappointing to see you spread this #FakeNews. Their claims are FALSE. The actual numbers, compiled every month by my office and readily available for anyone to view, tell a much different story, with #FACTS: https://t.co/eq8ew0TvTg
— Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (@IowaSOS) February 3, 2020
When all of the app drama started, many of those same public figures–people like Donald Trump Jr., Mike Cernovich, and Donald Trump’s digital media director Brad Parscale were on Twitter claiming it was the result of a “rigged” system. Never mind the fact that there was no evidence to back up these claims–it sounded right!
right-wing twitter is now trying to seed the idea, without evidence, that delays because of “quality control”/ the app are proof that the caucus is being rigged pic.twitter.com/JGzZxK7tYW
— Ali Breland (@alibreland) February 4, 2020
“Proof” of this rigged system came in the form of a rumor that the app, a product of the ominously named tech company Shadow, was created by former staffers on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. This was repeated by people all across the political spectrum, from Charlie Kirk-level conservatives to diehard progressives, despite it being not at all true.
Clinton’s ’16 campaign manager Robby Mook isn’t responsible for the Iowa app, contrary to a popular conspiracy theory (that I wrongly repeated, for which I apologize!) But the story of how an app collapsed caucus night in Iowa is perhaps more disturbing. https://t.co/1YNNFF63pJ
— Elizabeth Bruenig (@ebruenig) February 4, 2020
In reality, there are a lot of lessons we need to take away from Iowa. Because some of the choices made there were absolutely terrible ones.
You are building a tabulation system on the critical path of human history. Do you:
a) Have your decent public university CS dept build an open-source solution and ask for public review?
b) Pay the lowest bidder and keep it secret from election security experts? https://t.co/uNbJLOulxZ
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) February 4, 2020
It’s always a good time to re-up this gem:
All of those important lessons, though, are getting buried under a mountain of conspiracy theories, making it all too likely that we will end up having learned exactly nothing.
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