Misinformation Watch

By Donie O'Sullivan, Kaya Yurieff, Kelly Bourdet, the CNN Business team and contributors from across CNN

Updated 11:21 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021
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6:02 p.m. ET, October 27, 2020

Kayleigh McEnany posts misleading Biden clip, claims he 'admits to voter fraud'

From CNN Business' Kaya Yurieff

A misleading video clip of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has been spreading on social media without any warning labels since Saturday after having been promoted by members of President Donald Trump's inner circle.

In the 24-second clip from an interview with the podcast Pod Save America, which is hosted by four former members of the Obama administration, Biden is heard saying, in part, that "we have put together, I think, the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics."

The clip was first posted by RNC Research, a Twitter account operated by the Republican National Committee.

It's clear in context that Biden is talking about an effort to combat voter suppression and provide resources for those seeking to vote, not an organized effort to perpetrate voter fraud.

The clip is part of a longer response by the former Vice President to a two-part question from host Dan Pfeiffer about Biden's message to people who haven't voted and those who already have.

In his response, Biden encouraged people to "make a plan exactly how you're going to vote, where you're going to vote, when you're going to vote. Because it can get complicated, because the Republicans are doing everything they can to make it harder for people to vote, particularly people of color, to vote..."

He continued a few sentences later: "We have put together, I think, the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics. What the President is trying to do is discourage people from voting by implying that their vote won't be counted, it can't be counted, we're going to challenge it..."

Biden goes to explain that his campaign has arranged for legal assistance for people who feel their right to vote has ben challenged.

On Saturday evening, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany posted the shortened clip from her personal Twitter account saying: "BIDEN ADMITS TO VOTER FRAUD!"

Fact-checking website Snopes debunked the claim as false.

McEnany's post has been retweeted more than 32,000 times. The clip has been viewed 7.9 million times on Twitter. Eric Trump also posted the video on both Twitter and Facebook without any false commentary.

President Trump's verified YouTube account also posted the clip, with the title: “Joe Biden brags about having 'the most extensive and inclusive VOTER FRAUD organization' in history.” It's been viewed nearly 500,000 times.

A Twitter spokesperson said it will not label the tweets by McEnany or Eric Trump. The social network did not provide further detail.

Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but the platform has not added any information labels or fact-checking resources to the clip.

According to Twitter's rules, users may not "deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm." However, it's unclear if a clip taken out of context, but not technologically manipulated, would fall into this category.

Facebook's manipulated media policy states users should not post video that has been "edited or synthesized ... in ways that are not apparent to an average person, and would likely mislead an average person to believe that a subject of the video said words that they did not say."

A YouTube spokesperson said the video does not violate its rules.

“While the video shared with us by CNN does not violate our Community Guidelines, we have robust policies prohibiting deceptive practices such as technically manipulating content in a way that misleads users (beyond clips taken out of context) and may pose egregious harm." said Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokesperson.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Biden's national press secretary TJ Ducklo said: "The President of the United States has already demonstrated he’s willing to lie and manipulate our country’s democratic process to help himself politically, which is why we have assembled the most robust and sophisticated team in presidential campaign history to confront voter suppression and fight voter fraud however it may present itself."

When asked if the RNC stood by the clipped video, and if it’s the official position of the RNC that Biden was endorsing and explicitly encouraging voter fraud, RNC Rapid Response Director Steve Guest said: “You should ask Joe Biden if he stands by the words he uttered, not us for sharing them. It's not the RNC's responsibility to clarify for the Biden campaign their candidate’s repeated blunders."

3:01 p.m. ET, October 27, 2020

Facebook takes down fake account networks linked to Mexico, Venezuela, Iran and Myanmar

From CNN Business' Kaya Yurieff and Rishi Iyengar

Facebook announced its latest crackdown on foreign actors trying to interfere in the US election.

On Tuesday, Facebook said it took down three different networks, two of which targeted the United States. The other originated in and targeted Myanmar.

Facebook said it identified and removed these networks before they were able to build up a substantial audience. The people within each network worked with each other and used fake accounts to mislead people about who they were, according to a blog post announcing the takedowns from Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of security policy.

The company announced it took action against three distinct networks. The first network consisted of two Facebook pages and 22 Instagram accounts and was taken down for violating Facebook's policy against foreign interference, which covers accounts from outside a particular country trying to influence behavior in that country. These accounts and pages were run by individuals from Mexico and Venezuela and targeted the United States. They posted in Spanish and English about US news and current events, including "memes and other content about humor, race relations and racial injustice, feminism and gender relations, environmental issues and religion," Gleicher said.

Facebook also removed 12 Facebook accounts, 6 pages and 11 Instagram accounts for government interference, with the company saying it found links to individuals associated with the Iranian government. That network started in Iran and primarily targeted the United States and Israel.

Facebook said the accounts focused on Saudi Arabia's activities in the Middle East and also spread claims about an alleged massacre.

A third network, comprising 9 Facebook accounts, 8 pages, two groups and two Instagram accounts, originated in Myanmar and targeted local audiences there. Its posts, mainly in Burmese, included criticism of Myanmar's armed forces, Facebook said.

The removals are part of Facebook's effort to crack down on "coordinated inauthentic behavior" and widespread misinformation, particularly leading up to the US presidential election.

Last month, the company said it had identified and shut down a network of fake accounts that included fictitious personas it said were tied to Russian military intelligence.

While those accounts had not been primarily targeting the United States, Facebook pointed to concerns that similar accounts could be used in Russian influence operations as the November 3 election draws closer.

"In recent weeks, government agencies, technology platforms and security experts have alerted the public to expect attempts to spread false information about the integrity of the election," Gleicher said in his blog post on Tuesday. "We’re closely monitoring for potential scenarios where malicious actors around the world may use fictitious claims, including about compromised election infrastructure or inaccurate election outcomes, to suppress voter turnout or erode trust in the poll results."

12:10 p.m. ET, October 27, 2020

YouTube will add new warning label to combat Election Day misinformation

From CNN Business' Kaya Yurieff

With one week to go before Election Day, YouTube announced more changes in hopes of preventing misinformation about election results.

In a blog post on Tuesday, YouTube said that starting on Election Day, it would place an information panel at the top of search results related to the election, as well as below videos that talk about the election. The box will say that election results may not be final, and it will direct users to Google's feature that tracks election results in real time.

Some of the other efforts YouTube outlined are repeats from previous years. For example, YouTube parent company Google will be working with the Associated Press to display authoritative election results. YouTube also said it would continue promoting what it considers to be authoritative news sources, including CNN and Fox News, when users search for election news.

Google previously announced it would temporarily stop running election ads after Election Day.

2:57 p.m. ET, October 26, 2020

Twitter is trying to debunk election misinformation before it starts to spread

From CNN Business' Kaya Yurieff

With Election Day fast approaching, Twitter is trying to get ahead of election-related misinformation by showing a series of prompts to all users in the US starting Monday.

The prompts address topics that are likely to be the subject of election misinformation. The first prompt says that voting by mail is safe and secure, while the second tells people that there could be a delay in election results this year.

Twitter said both prompts will link to Twitter Moments that give more context and offer the latest authoritative information on the topic from experts, journalists and other reliable news sources.

More than 60 million Americans have already cast their ballots ahead of Election Day, both by voting early in person and by mail.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the security and reliability of mail-in voting, but experts say there is no evidence of widespread fraud in US elections. Some of Trump's social media posts have received warning labels from Twitter and Facebook, such as one post urging North Carolina residents to show up to polling places even if they have already submitted a mail-in ballot, a practice state election officials have explicitly advised against.

The move is part of a broader push by Twitter to tackle misinformation, including placing warnings or labels on tweets and encouraging users to quote tweet rather than retweet.

9:48 a.m. ET, October 26, 2020

Analysis: Why Trump's latest conspiracy theory can't stick

CNN Business' Alexis Benveniste

President Donald Trump is trying to invent his own reality about coronavirus.

On Saturday at a North Carolina rally, he claimed the media would no longer report on the pandemic after Election Day. He implied that news organizations are trying to drum up fear about the pandemic to get former Vice President Joe Biden elected.

But facts are facts: Cases are rising sharply and the American public is increasingly at odds with the president's views on the coronavirus. More then three-quarters -- 78% -- of Americans remain concerned about getting infected with Covid-19, according to an ABC News/Ipsos Poll released Sunday. And 61% of Americans say they disapprove of Trump's response to Covid-19, according to the same poll.

That's why Trump's denial of the importance of coronavirus and attempts to change the subject aren't working, according to CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter.

Read more here

10:46 a.m. ET, October 26, 2020

QAnon has hijacked the name of a real organization trying to save children

CNN Business' Donie O'Sullivan

You might see people sharing the hashtag #SavetheChildren on social media. But much of this online activity has nothing to do with the respected and real Save the Children charity. Its name has been hijacked by followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

10:26 a.m. ET, October 26, 2020

Facebook's Oversight Board is finally hearing cases, two years after it was first announced

CNN Business' Brian Fung

Facebook's court-like Oversight Board for appealing content decisions will now begin receiving cases, officials said Thursday, marking the launch of what CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised two years ago would be an independent accountability mechanism for the world's largest social media platform.

Under the rollout, users of Facebook (FB) and Instagram will be able to challenge Facebook's decisions to remove content that they have posted once they have exhausted the company's internal review process. The ability to escalate cases to the board will be rolled out to users gradually.

"We recognize there are many who want the board to start hearing cases as soon as possible," said Thomas Hughes, director of the Oversight Board. "We have all shared that ambition ... our first principle has always been to ensure we take the correct steps to get this right."

The announcement comes days before a US election in which tech companies' handling of misinformation, hate speech and other content has been deeply scrutinized. While the Oversight Board may receive cases related to election content, it will be up to board members to decide whether to act on them — not Facebook.

Read more here

10:14 a.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Twitter rolls out its 'temporary change' to the Retweet button ahead of Election Day

From CNN's Brian Ries

Twitter has officially rolled out its changes to the Retweet button 13 days from the US election. The move, CNN Business' Kaya Yurieff reported earlier this month, is part of an attempt to clamp down on the spread of misinformation on the platform.

Now, according to a Tweet from Twitter, when a user hits the Retweet button on a Tweet, they have the choice to either add context with a comment -- a Quote Tweet -- or leave the comment space blank and hit Retweet without one.

Twitter hopes this move will encourage people to add their own thought or reaction before spreading a Tweet.

"Though this adds some extra friction for those who simply want to Retweet, we hope it will encourage everyone to not only consider why they are amplifying a Tweet, but also increase the likelihood that people add their own thoughts, reactions and perspectives to the conversation," Twitter said in the blog post announcing the changes on Oct 9.

Here's what it looks like:

5:00 p.m. ET, October 19, 2020

Analysis: A CNN reporter went to two different QAnon events. Here's what he found

CNN Business' Donie O'Sullivan

I spent my last two Saturdays going to two very different QAnon events.

One, in Los Angeles, was a march through Hollywood that portrayed itself as an anti-pedophilia protest. Its organizers were careful not to explicitly embrace the QAnon conspiracy theory even as they implicitly signaled they support it and repeated its disinformation — much like what President Donald Trump did during an NBC town hall last week.

The other event, "Q Con Live," took place in a conference room at a resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was a meeting of some of QAnon's most passionate peddlers — but it could have easily been mistaken for a grassroots meeting to help re-elect the President.

What both showed is that for many of its supporters QAnon is not just a set of conspiracy theories. For them, it's a way to distract themselves from the failures of a President they see as the hero of a fight against an all-encompassing villainy, to elevate themselves by casting his critics and political opponents as those villains, and to not have to pay attention to all of the US' very real problems, like Covid-19 and systemic racism.

A march in Hollywood

"Pedophiles, you are on notice! - Q" one person's sign at the event in Hollywood said. Along with other material, including a QAnon symbol, the sign featured a picture of Trump heroically pointing, with the words "And I mean you Hollywood" added underneath. And then there was a hashtag: #SaveTheChildren.

Read more here