NV Pro-Democracy Group Warns about Disinformation

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Groups that track disinformation say purveyors sometimes back up their claims by referencing fake "think tanks," or by linking to other pages on their own website. Photo Credit: Feng Yu

A Nevada democracy watchdog group said social media, blogs, websites and hyperpartisan news organizations are all working overtime to spread disinformation in an effort to influence the midterm elections in November.

One debunked claim said voting machine algorithms are changing votes, which has driven two Nevada counties to move to hand-count their ballots, a much less secure process, and more vulnerable to manipulation.

Lisa Lynn Chapman, Nevada disinformation state manager at the Institute for a Progressive Nevada, said the problem with intentional falsehoods goes beyond the usual exaggerations sometimes heard on the campaign trail. She argued people need to be skeptical and try to pinpoint the source.

“Well, in general, trolls, white nationalists, men’s rights activists, the ‘alt-right’ conspiracy theorists,” Chapman outlined. “All manipulate social media algorithms to amplify their messages.”

She cited one recent false narrative, which claimed undocumented immigrants are being registered to vote at the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles. Chapman added another falsehood going around blames undocumented immigrants for the fentanyl crisis in Nevada.

“In a recent report from the Cato Institute, U.S. citizens were 86% of the convicted fentanyl drug traffickers. This is 10 times the greater convictions of undocumented immigrants, for that same offense.”

She warned people that lies about who is eligible to vote, as well as when, where and how to cast a ballot, are expected to surge in the coming weeks.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.