No, Kamala Harris Didn’t Breach Election Rules at an Ohio Polling Station

But a viral video claiming she did is spreading on Twitter, and the platform isn't doing anything to stop it.
October 27, 2020, 12:26pm
Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. speaks during a campaign event, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
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Unraveling viral disinformation and explaining where it came from, the harm it's causing, and what we should do about it.

A video claiming that Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris broke election laws by campaigning at a polling station is false, yet it remains on Twitter and has already been viewed over 1.5 million times.

The tweet, posted by actor and renowned disinformation artist James Woods, says “You can literally be arrested for campaigning at a polling station” alongside a video that Harris originally posted to her own Twitter account.

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The video shows Harris during a campaign stop at an Ohio polling station on Sunday, where she told those lining up to vote: “You are going to make the decision about your future, about your families’ future. It is through the voice of your vote, and you have the power. The power is with the people. And you know that. That is why you are standing in this line today. And I just came to say thank you.”

There are very clear rules set out by Ohio’s secretary of state about electioneering at polling stations in Ohio.

The rules say that you cannot be within 100 feet of the polling station, you cannot be within 10 feet of someone waiting in line, and you cannot attempt to solicit or influence anyone waiting to cast their vote.

Using the available evidence, a pair of journalists from Euronews were able to pinpoint Harris’ location and show that she was well over 100 feet from the polling station and at least 20 feet from those waiting in line.

As for the content of what she said, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Ohio said: “Greeting voters is not considered campaigning.”

Despite the false claims in the video, Twitter has not labeled Woods’ tweet as misleading or limited users’ ability to share it. It has already garnered over 61,000 likes and 30,000 retweets, and has been quoted by other leading conservative Twitter accounts as evidence that the Democrats are breaking the rules.

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Twitter told VICE News that Woods’ tweet is “currently not in violation of Twitter rules.”

As the campaigns barrel into the final week before the Nov. 3 vote, the level of disinformation surrounding the voting process is growing by the day.

According to a SurveyUSA poll released yesterday, 85% of voters said they were exposed to voter suppression misinformation. Even more worrying is that 35% believed the misinformation they saw to be true.

While Facebook remains the biggest spreader of such disinformation (685 of respondents said they saw voter suppression content on Facebook) Twitter is struggling to enforce its own rules around voting disinformation consistently.

On Monday, Twitter announced its latest effort to ward off disinformation on its platform, with what it called “pre-bunks”: messages placed at the top of users’ feeds to pre-emptively debunk false information about voting by mail and election results.

How effective these will be is unclear, and in the meantime, the president and his allies continue to push disinformation.

On the same day that Woods’ misleading tweet was being shared on Twitter, the company took action against President Donald Trump, who once again made completely baseless claims that the surge in mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud.

Trump’s tweet, which has been slapped with a label warning people that the contents are “misleading,” was posted just hours after his daughter Ivanka posted a picture of herself and her husband Jared Kushner, holding up their mail-in ballots next to a grinning Trump.

Here’s what else is happening in the world of election disinformation.

A Russian troll has been operating a major pro-Trump Facebook group for the last four years

A Snopes investigation uncovered a Facebook account that has all the hallmarks of a Russian troll, that was the administrator for a “Pennsylvania for Trump” Facebook group from April 2016 until this month. The group, which rebranded as “Support Melania Trump,” has over 115,000 followers and is targeting a state that Trump won by fewer than 45,000 votes in 2016. Despite having all the traits of an account run by the infamous Kremlin-controlled Internet Research Agency, the account, which used a profile photo of a Hollywood actress, went undetected until Snopes flagged it to Facebook — which quickly deleted it but refused to comment on the situation.

Fox News and NBC boost manipulated Biden video

On Monday, the Trump campaign’s Trump War Room Twitter account posted a deceptively edited clip to make it appear that Democratic nominee Joe Biden had confused his current opponent with Geroge W. Bush. But the full video clearly showed that Biden was referring to his interviewer, George Lopez.

Twitter has not flagged the clip as manipulated and it has since spread to conventional media. While you may have expected Fox News to boost the clip (before quietly walking back its story later in the day) it was also boosted by NBC’s 'Today' show, which ran a story based on the tweet. NBC later added an editor's note to say “the fact that Biden was talking with George Lopez was relevant and helpful context that should have been included in the original report.”

QAnon influencers are suing YouTube over ban

Some of the biggest stars in the QAnon firmament have come together to file a lawsuit against YouTube, claiming that the action, coming just weeks before the U.S. election, was just not fair.

“YouTube’s massive de-platforming, which occurred just three weeks before the 2020 Presidential election, worked to the severe detriment of both conservative content creators and American voters who seek out their content,” the complaint alleges. “YouTube took this draconian action so swiftly that the Plaintiffs received no advance notice and were not able to download their own content.”

Some of the accounts had hundreds of thousands of subscribers and the ban would have been a major blow to their efforts to make money from radicalizing people into believing the baseless conspiracy theory. Now that Patreon has banned QAnon grifters from its platform, it’s becoming harder and harder for these people to make money off other people’s misery.