Mark Twain's adage is that false information can spread around the world before the truth gets its boots on. Gizmodo charted that it took less than two hours for an election lie to go viral.
Last week, there was a restraining order issued against conservative, sometimes armed militia members who were sitting outside of ballot drop boxes filming people, chasing people and generally trying to scare people. It gave an opportunity for a case study to chart the role of disinformation and how it can generate discord among political foes.
The incident began when a Twitter video was posted showing a site in Anthem, Arizona last Tuesday. A poll worker tells a line of voters the site's machines aren't working and tries to tell them that their ballots will be read manually.
Right-wing firebrand Charlie Kirk, who Gizmodo called a long-time "disinformation disseminator," tweeted the video at 9:26 a.m. and two hours later millions had watched it, data collected by Kate Starbird revealed. She's a researcher studying misinformation in social media at the University of Washington state. The project is partnering with Stanford University for the Election Integrity Partnership.
They falsely claimed that the idea of a "faulty machine" was a plot by Democrats to throw out ballots for Republicans. "Cheating" became a trending topic. Donald Trump Jr. spread the misinformation.
About an hour later, Maricopa County Elections Department tweeted their own video to fact-check the initial video.
"In it, two election officials explain that all ballots will be counted regardless of faulty tabulators and that hand-counting ballots is standard in most Arizona counties on election days," the report explained. "The officials further added that voters can opt to cast their ballots at any location, and can go elsewhere if they really want to put their ballot in a working machine."
That sparked a whole other debate online with people like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), sounding the alarm about "chain of custody," which is a legal issue in her state but not in Arizona.
"But that video has been viewed significantly less than Kirk’s, with less than half a million watches," the report explained.