November 10, 2020

No, neither the Department of Homeland Security nor the military printed non-radioactive isotope watermarks on “official ballots.” No, there wasn’t “ballot stuffing” in Flint, Michigan, and it’s definitely false that truckloads of Trump votes were dumped in the desert.

These three claims are just a small sampling of how misinformation about alleged electoral fraud spread between Nov. 4-9 on social media.

After reviewing more than 45 fact checks it turns out that ballot related complaints were the most repeatedly tagged by the 10 U.S. based fact-checking organizations and two Spanish-language broadcasters that make up the International Fact-Checking Network’s FactChat initiative.

The Department of Homeland Security doesn’t produce ballots. That task is handled by local governments, which typically contract with printing companies to make the ballots, according to FactCheck.org. This falsehood originated on Facebook and then migrated to Twitter. FactCheck.org explained in its article that the watermark is an apparent reference to a February 2018 post from “Q,” the pseudonym used by the person or people who post cryptic messages on internet message boards that are the basis for the QAnon conspiracy theory.

PolitiFact spotted a video posted on Facebook that shows election workers depositing ballots into a collection box. The post suggested that these were illegal ballots. The caption reads: “Here we have staffers stuffing ballots in Flint, MI.” The truth is that this video was part of an article published by The Washington Post in 2018 about election tampering in Russia.

Leadstories debunked a TikTok video from a user named @redemptiontactical who suggested a video of a truck dumping objects in the desert was where the “Democrats sent the Trump votes.” In reality, this is a video from 2016 that shows workers in Saudi Arabia throwing away thousands of pounds of expired packaged chicken not fit for human consumption.

A tweet claiming that a postal worker was caught at the Canadian border with “stolen ballots” received more than 1,700 replies. According to AFP Fact Check, this is misleading. It’s true that a postal employee was arrested with undelivered mail, however, only three blank absentee ballots were found among the 813 items retrieved from his vehicle. The postal worker was not charged with election interference according to the Department of Justice.

Lead Stories also had Postal Service related fact-check. They rated as “False” a claim from Facebook that the Postal Service had failed to deliver 27% of Florida’s mail-in ballots. USPS spokeswoman Martha Johnson, provided the following statement in an email to Lead Stories: “The assumption that there are unaccounted ballots within the Postal Service network is inaccurate. These ballots were delivered in advance of the election deadlines.”

On Nov. 5, the website Tree of Liberty published an article titled “Mainstream Is Censoring This AP OneWire Press Release About Obvious Election Fraud, So I Am Leaking It.” Lead Stories in debunking this claim was quick to point out that The Associated Press does not have a product called OneWire. The claim also states this fictitious news service was publishing a press release from the Department of Homeland Security, however, the department would not be able to issue a press release through a news product that does not exist.

Outside the U.S., Lead Stories clarified a claim that the Freedom Bell in Berlin, Germany, did not ring on Nov. 7 to celebrate Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election. The fact-checkers explained that the bell rings every day at noon and not, as claimed in several social media posts, only on German holidays. It rang at its regularly scheduled time on Nov. 7. The bells that some residents reportedly heard had nothing to do with the U.S. presidential election.

Laura Weffer is IFCN’s coordinator for FactChat and co-founder of Venezuelan news outlet Efecto Cocuyo. She can be reached at laurafactchat@gmail.com or on Twitter at @laura_weffer.

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