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From 2020 to 2022: Persistent but Localized Narratives

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The US 2020 election was the peak of misinformation and disinformation narratives becoming mainstream through national political figures and influencers. These narratives altered perceptions about free and fair elections and directly led to the January 6 insurrection, attempts to overturn legitimate results (e.g., fake electors in Georgia), and the continuous belief among a significant part of the population that the US 2020 election was stolen.

In the US 2022 midterm elections, misinformation and disinformation narratives continued but were often more localized. This localization imposed more responsibility on state and local election officials and civil society to identify and address such narratives to maintain free and fair elections.

From Fringe to Mainstream

Many of the misinformation and disinformation narratives related to the midterms originated from Telegram, often in channels run by influencers in the election-denier community. These narratives were often amplified by articles by The Gateway Pundit and then proliferated to fringe social media platforms such as Truth Social, Gab, Gettr, and Rumble. The most pervasive narratives, which were often the most similar to narratives from 2020 elections, then spread to mainstream platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

During the period leading up to, during, and after the midterm elections, we observed three particularly high-risk narratives. Using our proprietary risk assessment methodology, we considered the risk posed by misinformation and disinformation narratives based on their dissemination and potential impact.

  1. Mail-in ballots are used to commit voter and election fraud

    • Description - Proponents of this narrative claimed that election officials and elected officials conducted organized ballot harvesting by sending mail-in ballots to deceased people and non-residents or diverting ballots to different mailing addresses so that they could be collected and cast for preferred candidates. Iterations of this narrative included the belief that ballot drop boxes were used to deposit large batches of fraudulently harvested ballots without scrutiny. Additionally, proponents claimed that election officials reviewed mail-in ballots and discard ballots marked for certain candidates.

    • Dissemination: High

    • Impact: High

    • Platforms: Facebook, Gab, Gettr, Reddit, Rumble, Telegram, Truth Social, Twitter, YouTube, Rumble, Gateway Pundit, Raw Story, Zero Hedge

  2. Voting machines are used to commit election fraud

    • Description: Proponents of this narrative claimed that tabulation machines can be hacked through the internet, are capable of changing votes without being detected in an audit, or are set up to break down or reject ballots in certain precincts to cause a hand count that can be falsified by election officials.

    • Dissemination: High

    • Impact: High 

    • Platforms: Facebook, Gab, Gettr, Reddit, Rumble, Telegram, Truth Social, Twitter, YouTube, Rumble, Gateway Pundit, Patriot.win, Breitbart

  3. Secretary of States enabled and/or committed voter and election fraud

    • Description: Secretaries of State running for office committed voter and election fraud by administering their own elections and manipulating the results in their favor. This narrative was very prevalent in states with incumbent Secretaries of State running as candidates but was limited elsewhere.

    • Dissemination: Low

    • Impact: Medium

    • Platforms: Facebook, Gab, Gettr, Reddit, Rumble, Telegram, Truth Social, Twitter, YouTube, Rumble, Gateway Pundit, Patriot.win, Breitbart

Looking Ahead to 2024

Programs and partnerships between state and local government and civil society organizations can help identify and address election-related misinformation and disinformation narratives ahead of the US 2024 elections. Similar programs and partnerships established by state governments and civil society, specifically community-based organizations, were effective in identifying and addressing COVID-19 related misinformation and disinformation.

Logically offers AI products, open-source intelligence services, and subject matter expertise to provide full-scope, customized solutions. Our support can range from program design and execution to misinformation and disinformation narrative identification and analysis to providing recommended countermeasures to address such narratives.

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