False narratives failed to take hold ahead of U

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The foretold “red tsunami” on Election Day turned out to be merely a dribble. Barring Florida and New York, the Nov. 8 midterms largely proved a moment of rejoice for Democrats across the United States. While misinformation ahead of, and on, Election Day was present, several outlets reported false narratives failed to take hold. Here’s a recap of what happened:

Ahead of Tuesday, election experts were more worried about the unwitting spread of misinformation than the deliberate spread of disinformation, according to The Washington Post. 

Washington Post tech reporter Cristiano Lima wrote, “misunderstandings or disputes about what degree of access (poll) observers have at polling sites could spark conspiracy theories that individuals were blocked from performing oversight in a bid to cover up supposed fraud.” 

“Expect the steal,” read a headline at one pro-Trump website.

While researchers found there was public consensus that “false election information on social media poses a problem,” only about 1 in 4 respondents were concerned about being tricked themselves. 

New York Times reporter Tiffany Hsu reported that Twitter was seeing an outsized amount of misinformation since tech billionaire Elon Musk acquired the platform. And multiple publications speculated on the possibility of Musk’s acquisition affecting midterm results.

“More than 40,000 tweets about malfunctioning voting machines in (Arizona’s) Maricopa County were posted in the span of two hours in the morning, according to the Election Integrity Partnership, a coalition of online information researchers,” wrote Hsu.

Thousands of tweets suggested fraud occurred in Maricopa County.

Bloomberg technology reporter Davey Alba tweeted four days before Election Day that Twitter communication teams have gone silent, since Musk’s almost-immediate firing of thousands of Twitter employees.


But in a post-Election Day article, The New York Times observed that disinformation researchers said most efforts to cast doubt on the election results failed to take hold. 

“In a briefing on Wednesday, leaders of Common Cause, the nonpartisan government accountability group, said the election had gone more smoothly than many had feared despite ‘small administrative issues’ in some polling stations that were being framed online as evidence of conspiracies,” wrote Times reporters Sheera Frenkel and Steven Lee Myers.

Interesting fact-checks

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-MD, speaks to a crowd at the Save Our Democracy rally Jan. 6, 2022. (Shutterstock)

  • Hibrid.info: Some Spanish media spread the false claim that a physically abused elderly woman was Serbian (Albanian) 
    •  “A video was published two days ago, containing horrible and very painful content, showing a nurse physically abusing an elderly woman in a retirement home in the city of Peja in Kosovo,” writes Shkelzen Osmani of Hibrid.info. “In the articles of some media in the Serbian language, it is claimed that the abused elderly woman belongs to the Serbian community. So, it is falsely claimed that an elderly woman from the Serbian community in the city of Peja in Kosovo was physically abused by an Albanian nurse. In fact, the elderly woman is a Kosovo Albanian, not a Serb.”
    • “The quote attributed to Jamie Raskin by Alt-Info and the Kremlin media is, in fact, Tucker Carlson’s assessment of a pro-Ukrainian statement made by Raskin. In the statement, the congressman criticized Russia but did not say it should be destroyed at any cost because of its Orthodox values.”


Quick hits


From the news: 

  • The Grift Empire “This five-part investigation into entrepreneur Max Polyakov represents 18 months of open-source reporting and is a follow-up to a February 2020 investigation. … Simply put, Polyakov sits atop a massive, internationally significant digital empire that incentivizes overtly deceptive advertising, and that allows him and his associates to profit in multiple ways from the scams pushed by that deception. By uncovering the mechanics of this ecosystem in forensic detail, Snopes hopes to highlight the technical, financial, and legal schemes required both to profit from internet scams and — perhaps — to stop their proliferation.” (Snopes, Alex Kasprak)
  • Purposes, Principles, and Difficulties of Fact-checking in Ibero-America: Journalists’ Perceptions “Fact-checking journalism has become a common practice to counteract misinformation. This research analyzes the perceptions of fact-checkers in Ibero-America on the purposes, principles, and challenges of fact-checking. Specifically, we studied if there are differences in perception based on adherence to the International Fact-Checking Network’s (IFCN) Code of Principles, how frequently fact-checkers perform fact-checks, as well as their experience and age.” (Journalism Practice, Carlos Rodríguez-Pérez)
  • “Disinformation” Law in Turkey Sparks a Record VPN Demand “Following the announcement of Turkey’s new media law, the term VPN saw a 12-month record in online searches in the country. The same goes for the query internet censorship circumvention, which showed a spike of 250% compared to the last 12 months.” (VPN Central, Deyan Georgiev)
  • Elon Musk keeps Birdwatch alive — under a new name “At its launch in the start of 2021, Twitter called Birdwatch ‘a pilot of a new community-driven approach to help address misleading information on Twitter.’ That pilot ended and, in early October, Twitter made the tool public for users in the U.S. Ever since, contextual notes have been popping up under tweets from political figures, institutions, comedians and billionaires.” (Alex Mahadevan & Seth Smalley, Poynter)

From/for the community: 

  • A Turkish fact-checking organization, Teyit, created a tool kit to battle misinformation. “Teyit presents the Emergency Confirmation Kit to its users based on its knowledge and experience so far. With the kit, which includes the basic methods and approaches by which users can confirm suspicious information on the Internet, Teyit ensures that users have tools against false information at any time. This kit, which aims to empower users against misinformation, is available here.”
  • The International Fact-Checking Network at the Poynter Institute has awarded $450,000 in grant support to organizations working to lessen the impact of false and misleading information on WhatsApp. In partnership with Meta, the Spread the Facts Grant Program gives verified fact-checking organizations resources to identify, flag and reduce the spread of misinformation that threatens more than 100 billion messages each day. The grant supports eleven projects from eight countries: India, Spain, Nigeria, Georgia, Bolivia, Italy, Indonesia and Jordan. Read more about the announcement here.
  • Stay tuned for more information on legal grant recipients in future additions of Factually.


Thanks for reading. If you are a fact-checker and you’d like your work/projects/achievements highlighted in the next edition, send us an email at factually@poynter.org by next Tuesday.

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Until next week,


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