It is almost a daily occurrence. AnyoneTweeting something that they later regret is not a good idea. Even for celebrities, athletes, and politicians, a wrong tweet can endanger their careers. Now in our especially hyper-polarized world we see many lawmakers taking to social media to make extremely bold – and at times questionable – statements.
A tweet purportedly from Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia Republican Congresswoman) was circulated earlier this week. Some suggested it could be used as “evidence” that she might have been involved with the “planning” for the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
However, Rep. Greene actually didn’t send the tweet.
PolitiFact and Lead Stories’ fact-checkers have reported that a photo showing a comment attributed by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene had been fabricated.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene wasn’t able to post or write a tweet about ‘flimsy evidence’ in relation to Jan. It was faked,” tweeted @PolitiFact on Thursday evening.
PolitiFact also confirmed that Greene’s spokesperson clarified that he did not make or compose the comment about the Capitol attack. PolitiFact noted that the fake tweet was posted days later. Rolling Stone A story alleging that Jan. 6 protest organizers had been in contact with members of Congress was published by Greene. Greene maintains that she had no involvement in protest planning.
Making the Rounds
Even though the tweet was confirmed to be fake, it has spread across social media with screenshots of it being posted on Facebook and other platforms. It was retweeted by Twitter and has been shared many times since its first appearance on Wednesday.
Numerous other news outlets have confirmed that it is fabricated.
Matthew Schmidt, Ph.D. is the coordinator of international affairs at Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences.
Schmidt stated, “She has said terrible things in the history, and I believe this could actually hurt our democracy just as much as what she claimed she had said in this tweet,” Schmidt added. These aren’t new things.
It is true that many of the allegations against our politicians have been made throughout our nation’s history. Social media, on the one hand, can make it much easier to spread misinformation or disinformation to large numbers of people. But the same technology can also help to debunk falsehoods very quickly.
Schmidt explained that it was harder to prove a falsehood in the past. He noted that there are now full-time political fact-checkers and websites that only fact check misinformation.
He said that it is easier to send a counter tweet today than to respond to such an allegation back in the days before social media.
Yet, social media remains ripe with fake news and there is no shortage of misinformation/disinformation campaigns beyond fake tweets.
Charles King, a technology analyst at Pund-IT, warned that the greatest danger in spreading fake videos on social networks is the apparent inability or will of Facebook and other social media platforms to stop misinformation spreading.
“Over the past couple of weeks, internal Facebook documents have shown that the company’s leadership was informed and knew about the negative effects of misinformation about Covid-19, the 2020 election and other issues, yet did little or nothing to stop it,” added King. While there are many technological challenges in identifying fraudulent photos or videos, the inaction by social media executives can be the catalyst that ignites a fire.
What about elections?
While such fabricated tweets can be quickly addressed, there is still a danger that could occur if this type of misinformation/disinformation were to trend on the eve of an election, especially in a close race.
Schmidt stated that “that could be a crucial element where this would cause concern.” “The time proximity of an election is one factor. However, it would also need to target a relatively non-polarizing politician like Greene.
The biggest question is whether enough people actually take the time and read beyond the tweets. It is true that PolitiFact, Reuters and a plethora of other sites debunked this tweet – yet as has been seen, people still believe what they want to believe.
Schmidt stated that people need to be able to access news sources other than social media. He also said that he believes in professional press. “This is a call to educated citizens that take the time and determine truth or falsehood.”