Researchers at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Middle discovered that unsubstantiated issues about widespread mail-in voter fraud within the 2020 election are primarily unfold by high-ranking Republicans — together with Donald Trump — and standard media, in response to a working paper launched Oct. 2.
Harvard Legislation College professor Yochai Benkler and others analyzed “over fifty-five thousand online media stories, five million tweets, and seventy-five thousand posts on public Facebook pages which garnered millions of engagements.” They discovered that — opposite to standard knowledge — social media performed a secondary function in spreading disinformation, although they counted Trump’s Twitter account as a media supply moderately than as a social media account.
Benkler mentioned he and the group hope their findings will assist guarantee the legitimacy of this fall’s election.
He additionally mentioned that the paper must make policymakers rethink their assumptions about so-called “fake news.” They need to renew their deal with conventional media sources, equivalent to native tv and syndicated articles, since most comparatively apolitical voters depend on them, he added.
“You need to shift your frame towards these very non-sexy, non-tech outlets, given who their audience is and given that they’re really the only remaining persuadable audience,” Benkler mentioned.
The report discovered that, of the viewers and readers of native media, between 15 to 20 p.c imagine voter mail-in fraud can be a serious drawback. Shoppers of nationwide sources just like the New York Instances or NPR have been much less prone to share these worries.
The report discovered that CNN, the Washington Put up, Trump’s Twitter account, NBC, NPR and Politico — amongst others — performed the biggest function in spreading details about voter fraud.
The Berkman Klein group started finding out data dissemination a few dozen years in the past, publishing “on more specific topics, like intellectual property legislation,” in response to Benkler. They moved to finding out bigger points after the 2016 election, publishing an evaluation of that election in 2018, and began specializing in mail-in voting this summer season.
“It became clear to me that this one controversy, specifically on fraud related to mail-in ballots, was becoming the major disinformation campaign in the 2020 election, the one that was really potentially threatening voter participation,” Benkler mentioned.
The report requires a reevaluation of journalistic requirements of objectivity, which, it argues, pressure reporters to be overly sympathetic to falsehoods acknowledged by distinguished figures.
Benkler mentioned he views so-called “fact-checking columns,” separate parts of a newspaper debunking false claims, as unhelpful. He advocates as an alternative for what he calls a “sandwich approach,” one by which journalists appropriate false statements in the identical articles by which they initially reported them.
“That’s a way to stay true to the normative commitments of professional journalism without becoming replicators and reinforcers of the propagandists’ message,” he mentioned.