October 29, 2020

Don’t be surprised if your social media feeds and your messaging apps become filled with conspiracy theories until Nov. 3, the U.S. Election Day. For a group of highly respected fact-checkers this is totally predictable.

“Everything indicates that (disinformers) will insist on posting about Hunter Biden’s emails and Joe Biden’s possible relationships with pedophiles’ networks. We will see tons of QAnon conspiracy theories,” says Jeanfreddy Gutiérrez, who works as a fact-checker for Efecto Cocuyo, in Venezuela.

Juan Esteban Lewin, from La Silla Vacía in Colombia, sends the same alert. He is quite sure that, during these last days of the presidential campaign, U.S voters will receive an explosion of what he calls “dark messages.”

“Disinformers will say that Donald Trump is a Russian puppet and that Biden is a socialist. But we will also see conspiracy theories coming from the U.S and landing in our countries (in Latin America). The campaigns will try to link the American candidates with other nations’ politics and dynamics, targeting voters who have two nationalities,” said Lewin.

Mexican fact-checker Tania Morales, Animal Politico’s executive editor, anticipates that in the coming days a flood of conspiracy theories will try to mix the pandemic with electoral issues. Trump has been pledging that a COVID-19 vaccine would be available by the end of 2020 “or maybe even sooner”. This sort of claim can be easily distorted and amplified.

Laura Zommer, who is the executive editor of Chequeado, in Argentina, and Daniel Bramatti, who leads Estadão Verifica, in Brazil, both expect that attacks on the electoral process to rise during the final stretch of the U.S presidential campaign.

“We will see misinformation related to the voting system”, said Zommer. “People saying they had issues while voting, that they just couldn’t get their ballots the way they wanted and, of course, a lot of misinformation about the results. We ought to be careful with early results and final polls”.

“Disinformation will attack or cast doubts on the election result,” Bramatti said. “Joe Biden is the favorite candidate, and Donald Trump and his supporters have, as their last option, to push the idea of ​​fraud. It is a way of delegitimizing the victory of the adversary, or, in the worst case, to open space to question it directly.”

To try to stop conspiracy theories, be they about the candidates, the pandemic or the electoral process, U.S fact-checkers are preparing “war rooms” for this weekend. Many will be on duty – throughout Saturday and all of Sunday – to not only follow closing arguments by Trump and Biden, but also to identify falsehoods before they gain relevance and viralize on social media.

They are – surely – counting on your help. Don’t share conspiracy theories.

Read this article in Spanish at Univision.

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Cristina Tardáguila is the International Fact-Checking Network’s Associate Director. She was born in May 1980, in Brazil, and has lived in Rio de Janeiro for…
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