Twitter Admits It Knowingly Helped Spread Election Disinformation During Iowa Caucuses

Twitter Admits It Knowingly Helped Spread Election Disinformation During Iowa Caucuses
Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey gestures while interacting with students at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi on November 12, 2018. (Photo: Prakash Singh (Getty)

The Washington Post’s Tony Romm reported on Monday night that Twitter has decided it will allow certain right-wing accounts to spread disinformation about the Iowa Democratic Caucuses, including tweets that suggest the results are being “rigged.”

Trump campaign manager Brad Pascal tweeted on Monday, “Quality control = rigged?,” citing a second Trump campaign official who had used the hashtag #RiggedElection.

There is no evidence of vote tampering in Iowa and the Trump campaign’s claims are entirely baseless. (Technical issues with an app used by to submit election results have caused delays in tallying the results.)

Twitter’s decision would seem to provide political fraudsters with a clear message: deceiving voters into believing U.S. election results have been falsified is an acceptable use of Twitter’s platform.

Twitter did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

Earlier in the day, Charlie Kirk, the leader of a college-focused conservative group called Turning Point USA, tweeted that Iowa election officials were involved in “voter fraud” citing a debunked report by the right-wing activist group Judicial Watch.

The Judicial Watch report falsely claimed that the number of registered voters in Iowa exceeded the number of voting-age residents in each county. Judicial Watch’s fake figures were quickly shot down by Iowa’s Republican secretary of state, Paul D. Pate.

“It’s unfortunate this organisation continues to put out inaccurate data regarding voter registration, and it’s especially disconcerting they chose the day of the Iowa Caucus to do this,” Pate said in a statement.

Pate continued: “My office has told this organisation, and others who have made similar claims, that their data regarding Iowa is deeply flawed and their false claims erode voter confidence in elections. They should stop this misinformation campaign immediately and quit trying to disenfranchise Iowa voters.”

The Iowa secretary of state’s office pointed to “actual data” from the U.S. Census Bureau to say Judicial Watch’s claims about Iowa’s population “are greatly underestimated.”

Nevertheless, the tweet by Kirk invoking the debunked claim had over 42,500 retweets at press time.

Twitter spokesman Brandon Borrman told the Washington Post that the company would take no action against users working to sow mistrust in the official election results, which were not expected until Tuesday.

“The tweet is not in violation of our election integrity policy as it does not suppress voter turnout or mislead people about when, where, or how to vote,” Borrman told the Post, regarding tweets by prominent conservatives claiming the Democratic caucuses were “rigged.”

Twitter’s claim that such tweets do not “suppress voter turnout” is unlikely to go unchallenged by federal lawmakers who view this particular form of deception as an overt attempt to convince voters participation in a “rigged” election is pointless.

The underlying message being propagated by the Trump campaign, Judicial Watch, and Turning Point USA seems an obvious one: Your vote doesn’t count, so why bother?