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Harvard Study Finds Trump Is Responsible for Spreading Misinformation About Mail-in Voting, Not Social Media

Illustration for article titled Harvard Study Finds Trump Is Responsible for Spreading Misinformation About Mail-in Voting, Not Social Media
Photo: Isaac Brekken (Getty Images)

Since it became clear that the president was losing in the polling and that a global pandemic was pushing more and more folks towards mail-in voting, President Trump and his merry band of Trumpesticles have consistently claimed that mail-in voting is open to massive fraud.

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Well, a working paper from Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society found that the mail-in voting disinformation campaigns from President Trump—or “Don’t believe the shit that comes from his anus-shaped mouth,” as Democrats call him—is largely responsible for spreading these lies around mail-in voting.

From Vox:

In particular, the study found that the president himself, on Twitter as well as through press conferences and interviews, was the main source of falsehoods about mail-in voter fraud. In turn, right-wing media organizations and media organizations in general abetted the spread of that misinformation by uncritically parroting it without full context.

The intention is to get people to believe mail-in voting is faulty precisely as 80 million people are set to vote by mail this year, due to the coronavirus. Uncertainty about the mail-in voting process has the potential to subdue voter turnout and undermine faith in the outcome of the upcoming election.

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Vox notes that this isn’t the first time Trump has used his misinformation bugle to blow crooked notes; a Cornell study (pdf) found that the president is also the “biggest driver of coronavirus misinformation as well.”

From the Harvard study:

Our results are based on analyzing over fifty-five thousand online media stories, five million tweets, and seventy-five thousand posts on public Facebook pages garnering millions of engagements. They are consistent with our findings about the American political media ecosystem from 2015-2018, published in Network Propaganda, in which we found that Fox News and Donald Trump’s own campaign were far more influential in spreading false beliefs than Russian trolls or Facebook clickbait artists. This dynamic appears to be even more pronounced in this election cycle, likely because Donald Trump’s position as president and his leadership of the Republican Party allow him to operate directly through political and media elites, rather than relying on online media as he did when he sought to advance his then-still-insurgent positions in 2015 and the first half of 2016.

Did y’all read that? Not only did Trump and his tribe have more of an impact than social media, but they were also more influential than “Russian trolls of Facebook clickbait artists.”

So not only is the president the biggest pusher of lies about mail-in voting, but he’s also the biggest dealer in coronavirus mistruths. Basically, the Harvard and Cornell studies found that the president is a big-ass liar who lies about lying and then lies about lying about lying.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.

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DISCUSSION

Based on early voting numbers, Trump’s incessant rant about mail in ballots along with Republicans never ending attempts at disenfranchisement seems to be pushing more people to the polls before election day and to return mail in ballots far earlier. This may turn out to bite them in the ass.