Trump Tweets Flagged by Twitter for Misinformation

In the two days after Election Day, Twitter has added warning labels to nine of President Donald Trump’s election-related tweets, cautioning the messages “might be misleading.” They are misleading, and in some cases, false.

They continue a monthslong effort by the president to sow doubt about the U.S. election process and mail-in voting in particular. We’ve chronicled how Trump has made a string of false, misleading and unsupported statements about the potential for voter fraud.

Now, with the outcome of the election still hanging in the balance as several states continue to tally votes, Trump is using Twitter to spread misinformation.

The social media platform has labeled eight tweets with the warning: “Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process,” with links to its “civic integrity policy.” A ninth tweet was flagged with different language.

Twitter’s “civic integrity policy” says users of the social media platform can’t “use Twitter’s services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes.”

The policy warns that Twitter “may label and reduce the visibility of Tweets containing false or misleading information about civic processes.”

Violations of the policy include posting misleading information about election outcomes, such as claims about rigged elections and ballot tampering, as well as claiming victory before election results have been certified and inciting unlawful conduct to prevent the implementation of election results.

We’ll go through all nine of the flagged tweets.

The facts: There has been no evidence of voter fraud affecting the outcome of the 2020 election, and the Trump campaign provided none when we asked. We don’t know what specifically the president may be referring to, but the vague, baseless claim is similar to his past repeated assertions.

In Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 26, Trump told his supporters “the only way we can lose, in my opinion, is massive fraud.” In that and other Pennsylvania rallies late in the campaign, he made several false and misleading claims about ballots and voting.

Over and over again, the president falsely has suggested that voter fraud is some kind of regular occurrence. But it isn’t.

“Election fraud committed with absentee ballots is more prevalent than in person voting but it is still rare,” Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, and author of “The Voting Wars,” told us earlier this year. “States can and do take steps to minimize the risks, especially given the great benefits of convenience — and now safety — from the practice.”

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, Hasen cited a database created by News21, a national investigative reporting project that tracks cases of election fraud. News21 found absentee-ballot ballot fraud was the most prevalent type of election fraud, comprising about 24% of reported prosecutions between 2000 and 2012.

“But the total number of cases was just 491 — during a period in which literally billions of votes were cast,” Hasen wrote. 

The facts: Again, Trump claims there has been “Voter Fraud” and falsely says there is “Plenty of proof.” We asked his campaign for the proof but haven’t received a response. The only claims of fraud we’re aware of are bogus claims being spread on social media, including some retweeted by Trump and his son, Eric.

In a news conference on Nov. 5, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar was asked if she or the counties had investigated any allegations of voter fraud. She said she knew of only one case in which Luzerne County election officials caught a man who filled out an absentee application in the name of his deceased mother. That man was arrested in October and charged with voter fraud and forgery.

During the campaign, Trump misleadingly described examples of unintentional errors as fraud.

The facts: We’re not sure what the president means here, but 22 states — including 12 won by Trump in 2016 — do accept mail-in ballots that are postmarked by Election Day if they arrive in the mail a few days afterward.

For instance, in Nevada, postmarked ballots can arrive as late as Nov. 10 and be counted — again, as long as the postmark date is Nov. 3. North Carolina will accept properly postmarked ballots through Nov. 12. Alaska cannot even begin counting absentee ballots until seven days after Election Day.

Trump could be referring to Pennsylvania, where, due to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in September, ballots can be received as late as 5 p.m. on Nov. 6 if they were mailed (or presumed to have been mailed) by Election Day. 

The justices said that ballots “received within this period that lack a postmark or other proof of mailing, or for which the postmark or other proof of mailing is illegible, will be presumed to have been mailed by Election Day unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was mailed after Election Day.”

State Republicans have, unsuccessfully, fought that deadline in court. The U.S. Supreme Court first let the state high court ruling stand, and then denied a request to rule on the merits of the case before Nov. 3. But Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion said the court could decide the case later and that ballots received after Election Day polls closed should be set aside by Pennsylvania officials.

The Trump campaign has asked to join that lawsuit.

The facts: Twitter warned under the first tweet in this thread: “Official sources may not have called the race when this was Tweeted.” We’re not sure why Twitter was so tentative in its language. In fact, official sources had not called a winner in Pennsylvania, North Carolina or Georgia when Trump tweeted that he had “claimed” them.

As for Michigan, the Associated Press called the state for Biden at 5:56 p.m., one hour after Trump’s tweet. Fox News and CNN had called the state before the AP.

And media company election experts “calling” a race for a candidate is not the same as “claiming” it “for Electoral Vote purposes.” That’s determined by certified voting results from the states.

Trump falsely claimed in his second tweet of the thread that there may be “a large number of secretly dumped ballots” in Michigan “as has been widely reported!”

There were no “secretly dumped ballots” in the state. Trump is likely referring to a clerical error that was quickly corrected by a Michigan county. The data input error had briefly showed an unusually large uptick in votes for Biden.

A GOP consultant who had questioned the uptick in a tweet — which Trump then amplified in a retweet (see below) — later corrected the record and deleted his original post.

The facts: It’s true that among the votes tallied the night of the election, Trump led Biden by more than 500,000 votes. But Trump’s comment that “They are working hard” to make that lead “disappear” suggests nefarious intentions behind routine counting of legitimately cast ballots.

As we’ve written, vote counting always goes past Election Day. There’s nothing unusual about that. Most states — including Pennsylvania and Michigan — don’t start counting mail-in ballots until Election Day, and with a larger volume of mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic, several states expected the vote count to take at least a few days. 

Pennsylvania could not even begin pre-canvassing — opening envelopes and preparing the ballots to be counted — until 7 a.m. on Election Day. The morning after Election Day, Pennsylvania reported that about half of the nearly 2.6 million mail-in ballots had been counted.

In Michigan, some cities or townships — those with populations of 25,000 or more — were able to start pre-canvassing one day before the election, but that wasn’t enough time to get the ballots counted by Election Day.

While the votes counted in Pennsylvania and Michigan on the days after the election broke decidedly in Biden’s favor, that’s largely because more Democrats than Republicans voted by mail. In Pennsylvania, nearly three times as many of the mail-in ballots came from Democrats.

The facts: Actually, it’s about very little. Walsh linked to a since-deleted tweet posted by a GOP consultant, Matt Mackowiack, who shared screenshots of an interactive map of election results in Michigan depicting Biden climbing nearly 140,000 votes while Trump and others remained stagnant. But as we wrote, and explained above, that was due to a data input error by a county’s reporting that was quickly corrected.

Mackowiack later corrected the record and tweeted: “This tweet was taken and share honestly. I have now learned the MI update referenced was a typo in one county. I have deleted the original tweet.”

The map, which appeared on BuzzFeed News, was powered by the election data-gathering firm Decision Desk HQ.

“This morning there was a clerical error in the Shiawassee, MI county presidential data,” the firm wrote on Twitter. “Once we identified the error, we cleared the erroneous data and updated it with the correct data as provided by officials.

And Abby Bowen, elections clerk in Shiawassee County, told us by phone that the error came down to a typo.

“There was a typo in the initial report that went out to the Bureau of Elections. It was caught in a very short amount of time and quickly corrected,” Bowen said. “There was an extra 0 added on the end when Biden’s votes were keyed in.”

“This is why we have the checks and balances,” she said. “This is no kind of voter fraud. It was literally just a typo.”

The facts: Trump’s lead did not “magically disappear” due to “surprise ballot dumps.” Rather, his lead narrowed in the days following the election in some states as election officials began counting legally cast mail-in ballots.

As we noted earlier, more Democrats voted via mail-in ballots than Republicans did. And so, it is not “VERY STRANGE” — in fact it was expected — that as mail-in ballots were counted, Biden would gain ground.

As for “surprise ballot dumps,” there isn’t any evidence of that. The Trump campaign did not respond to our email seeking backup for that. It is possible that Trump was referring to the clerical error in Michigan we wrote about above, which was not a “ballot dump” and as we said was quickly corrected.

The facts: There is no evidence so far of votes cast after the polls closed on Tuesday being counted. As we have written, some states allow votes postmarked before the polls closed, but not received until the days after the election, to be counted.

As far back as August, the Trump campaign was warning that new election laws in some states might allow votes to be cast and counted after Election Day. For example, we wrote about a claim from Hogan Gidley, the national press secretary for the Trump campaign, who warned about the potential for “massive fraud” of that type in Nevada — one of the states that allow ballots received in the days after the election to be counted, provided they are postmarked by Election Day. Gidley cited a Nevada law that says ballots with a smudged and unreadable postmark, or no postmark at all, would be counted if received up to three days after the election. As a result, he said, voters could “wake up on Wednesday morning, see that they don’t like the results and then go drop their ballots in the mail,” and that those votes would be counted.

Wayne Thorley, Nevada’s deputy secretary of state for elections, told us back in August that was wrong. He noted that all of the ballots received in the primary election had postmarks, and that 5,355 ballots were rejected because they were postmarked after the date of the election.

“If your plan is to wait until the day after the election to vote, then I can say with almost 100 percent certainty your ballot won’t be counted,” Thorley said at the time.

Jessica A. Levinson, a professor who specializes in election law at Loyola Law School in California, told us then that, “Theoretically, a voter could vote the morning after Election Day, put it in the mail and pray for an ineligible postmark and quick delivery. This is not exactly a scenario ripe for fraud and abuse.”

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