With the 2020 Election less than three weeks away and early voting already underway in the Miami Valley and across the state, the group Common Cause is opening a drive to thwart false information being spread on social media. Catherine Turcer, Executive Director of the organization’s Ohio office, pointed to a flood of information on candidates and issues now available on all corners of the internet. “Unfortunately all of this information leads to a lot of bad information. And some of it is just confusion and it is not intended to be disinformation, but of course we need to be pushing back so that voters get good information,” Turcer said.
The prime example of what she is talking about happened in late 2016 during the heated battle between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. A photo made the rounds on Facebook well before Election Day that showed what was said to be thousands of ballots already made out for Clinton that were found in a warehouse operated by the Franklin County Board of Elections in Columbus. It appeared on a web site called the “Christian Times Newspaper.”
The problem was there was no discovery of ballots in a warehouse. The photo was deemed a fake by the Board of Elections from the beginning. Later, it was learned that the photo was not from Ohio or the United states. It came from a British newspaper and was altered to fit the narrative of the made up story from Ohio. The New York Times ran a story in 2017 that said the man behind the photo and false story was a Republican activist in Maryland.
Then Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted blew the whistle on the fake photo and dismissed it as another attempt to influence the election by undermining people’s faith in the system.
Common Cause has set up a web site where people who see suspicious claims on Facebook and other social media can report those sites. It is at https://www.commoncause.org/disinformation-tip-line/.
Turcer said the organization will also have their own people on the lookout for falsehoods. “I think there are around 50 volunteers that go on and just spend their time looking for misinformation. They work with the national (Common Cause) folks to provide good information and to work with the Board of Elections and the Secretary of State,” Turcer said.
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