Misinformation Attacks During the October 2019 Presidential Debates
We’re VineSight, an AI startup that detects misinformation on social networks. For over a year now, we have been analyzing the Internet’s social graphs for content and connections in order to detect misinformation mere moments after it’s released into the wild — regardless of whether it appears as raw text, images, memes, or video. Today, our automated technology finds potential misinformation tweets within hours after they are posted.
This report details the most viral misinformation attacks we have detected in the weeks leading up to and immediately following the fourth Democratic Presidential debate on October 15th 2019.
Every tweet in this report was identified by VineSight within 24 hours of its posting, using our cutting edge AI technology and subsequently stored in our misinformation database. In this report we only included tweets that passed a viral threshold of retweets and likes. Most of them have hundreds or thousands of shares, allowing us to present a snapshot of the viral and influential misinformation currently making its way through social media.
In this next section, we will break down the specific attacks that are being launched at the top Democratic presidential candidates. But before doing so, let’s first give you a sense of which top candidates were subjected to the most misinformation in recent months.
In the past few weeks we have seen an interesting phenomenon: misinformation attacks have mainly targeted Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats, such as Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff. Most of these attacks have been related to the recent impeachment hearings. There is a smaller than usual focus on the other presidential candidates. Candidates like Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and even Bernie Sanders, all of whom were prominent targets during the previous presidential debates, are receiving far less viral misinformations attacks in this round.
The graph below displays the percentage of misinformation targeting each candidate as detected by VineSight from October 13th to 16th 2019.
Now, let’s dive down candidate by candidate to look at the misinformation attacks against each one. As you go through the tweets, draw your attention to their virality and the fact that most were published in the last few days.
Misinformation Attacks on Joe Biden
High Probability Viral Misinformation: Joe Biden was paid $900k by Burisma
Trolls and bots have been spreading claims that Joe Biden has been paid $900k by the Ukrainian company Burisma, the company for which his son Hunter has been working.
High Probability Misinformation: Joe Biden and his family are Chinese agents
Trolls are spreading many viral stories claiming that Joe Biden’s loyalty lies with China. Other stories mentioned that his son Hunter is involved in Chinese espionage activity and that China paid him $1.5 Billion.
High Probability Misinformation: Justice Department says it will investigate Joe Biden
Trolls are pushing an article by TruePundit, which claims that the Justice Department “may have to investigate Joe Biden”.
Misinformation Attacks on Beto O’ Rourke
High Probability Misinformation: Beto O’Rourke failed to meet threshold for November debate
Trolls and bots are pushing an article by Breitbart that claim O’Rourke “failed” to meet the criteria for the November 20th debate. However, the final day to meet the criteria is in November.
Misinformation Attacks on Kamala Harris
High Probability Misinformation: Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are involved in the Jessie Smollett hoax
Trolls and bots claim there is new evidence that Kamala Harris and Cory Booker were part of the Jussie Smollett Hoax.
Misinformation Attacks on Elizabeth Warren
Possible Misinformation: “Elizabeth Warren is lying about her past”
Trolls and bots have been accusing Warren of lying about her past. In one line of attack, she is accused of lying about being fired because of her pregnancy. Another viral story claims that she lied about her father being a janitor. These stories were retweeted by @realDonaldTrump, @DineshDSouza, and @GroverNorquist.
Misinformation Attacks on Cory Booker
High Probability Misinformation: Booker Misquoted
Trolls, bots, and the Trump campaign have been misquoting Cory Booker. Booker was misquoted saying: “Trump supporters are despicable” and accusing Catholics of “wanting to use religion as a justification for discrimination”.
High Probability Misinformation: Cory Booker stole 600k from Newark
Roger Stone and other trolls are accusing Cory Booker of stealing $600k from Newark while being mayor, and laundering it through his law firm. The video has been watched over 175 thousand times.
Misinformation Attacks on Tulsi Gabbard
High Probability Viral Misinformation: Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian agent.
Bots and trolls are claiming that Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian agent.
Misinformation About CNN
High Probability Misinformation: Tulsi Gabbard is being censored
During the debate, Tulsi Gabbard ran out of time while asking Elizabeth Warren a question. Trolls and bots interpreted it as a deliberate attempt by CNN to censor Gabbard and perhaps to help Warren. According to the posts, this anti-Gabbard behavior is corroborated by the “leaked CNN tapes” that Project Veritas uncovered.
Misinformation Attacks on Democrats
Out of Context: Whistle Blower had contact with presidential candidates
The whistleblower’s attorneys stated that the whistleblower has come into contact with presidential candidates from both parties in their roles as elected officials — not as candidates. Many reported this as if the whistleblower had been in contact with the presidential candidates while they were candidates, and that he was perhaps even working with them.
These tweets and stories only scratch the surface of what we are currently seeing in the wild — and only represent the beginning of what is sure to be a volatile campaign season. If you are interested in getting deeper insights into a candidate or a topic, or in hearing more about the trends we’re currently detecting, contact us at email@example.com.