Checking Social Media: Hoaxes and Truths

Old photo of arrest made by ICE officer resurfaced as a hoax (© Wikimedia Commons)

By Érico Lotufo
BU News Service

A photograph of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer arresting an alleged illegal immigrant trying to vote for Hillary Clinton was tweeted at 4:17 p.m. by a Trump supporter.

The problem: there are records of the same picture on the Internet dating back to 2013. But that didn’t stop it from being retweeted 2,000 times in two hours.

As Americans filled in their ballots, some used the final day of the 2016 Presidential Campaign to perpetuate election-related hoaxes and misinformation. Like the ICE arrest image, many of them are shared thousands of times before being widely discredited.

This and other hoaxes have been tracked and tested by ProPublica’s Electionland Project.

The picture even resurfaced hours later, with the ICE officer and the man he was arresting photoshopped on a different background.

Also on Twitter, a fake CNN account, @CNN_PoIitics (with an uppercase “i” replacing the lowercase “l” in “Politics” to fool users), posted a false report of an exit poll from Florida showing Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton. The account has since been suspended.

Some prefer older methods. In Lewiston, Maine several students, via the “Bangor Daily News,” reported fliers were distributed at Bates College with a “legal advisory” about how complicated it is to register to vote, including several possible fees that would have to be paid by the prospective voter.

The State of Maine allows same-day voter registration, with no requirements involving fees or having a driver’s license.

In Knoxville, on the other hand, a flier stated Democrats could vote for Hillary Clinton via text message, per WBIR.

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, another fake flier was reported on social media, stating that Democrats had their voting day moved to Wednesday. However, the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Department hasn’t confirmed if the hoax was actually perpetrated.

“We couldn’t find a single one of the fliers,” Deputy Josh Hastings told BU News Service. “It’s something that started in social media, but we couldn’t find a physical copy.”

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