(Amy Cavenaile/The Washington Post; iStock)

It’s just over one week until the election, which means that it’s peak season for fake info and misinformation on the Internet.

Below are just five of the unsubstantiated rumors, misleading stories, and outright hoaxes floating around the Web right now. Please don’t share any of these if and when you see them on Facebook. Good luck out there!


No, it’s not. Screenshot of Facebook/The Washington Post

1. Congress isn’t about to force Trump to release his tax returns. 

A very misleading headline about a real bill in the Senate went bonkers on Facebook recently, claiming that the Senate was about to “force the release of Donald Trump’s Taxes.”

This one comes from some site called “Groopspeak,” but very similar versions of this headline date back to September, according to a quick Google search. That’s about when Senate Democrats tried — and failed — to get a Senate vote for the Presidential Tax Transparency Act. Back then, as is true now, the bill had almost no chance of becoming a law before the elections this November, as The Fix explained at length a few weeks ago.

In addition to passing the Senate (which, again, it didn’t), the bill would also have to pass the House. The House version of the bill has already been introduced, and it doesn’t have enough support.

And if that’s not enough for you people who are sharing this link on Facebook in late October, take a look at the Senate calendar. Even if this bill had a chance of getting passed this year — once again, it didn’t really have one — the Senate isn’t in session again until after the elections.

2. An image doesn’t show ICE officers arresting people who are in line to vote 

“I’ve just got word that an illegal trying to vote has been arrested,” begins a viral tweet from a well-known white supremacist bot account, claiming that ICE is “watching voting places closely.” The tweet includes an image that appears to show just that:

https://twitter.com/NeilTurner_/status/791766123788271617

The image is a photoshop, as ProPublica’s recent debunking of the hoax explains. The arrest was lifted from this Wikimedia Commons image and placed into an unrelated scene of people waiting in line.

Why? Turner’s account is a part of the alt-right, so it’s fair to assume that this is partly trolling. It is also intimidation, ProPublica writes, likely targeting Hispanic voters with mixed-status families, who might worry that a trip to the polls could put their family members at risk.

3. It’s really unlikely that this guy in North Carolina actually voted three times for Clinton

A North Carolina man named Robert Dougherty posted a photo of three “I voted!” stickers to Facebook recently, tagging a bunch of his friends in a post that was apparently intended to make fun of North Carolina’s lack of a voter ID requirement at the polls. Instead, it was vacuumed up into the conservative viral news machine as a real story. Suddenly, Gateway Pundit (which has gotten ahead of itself on voter fraud rumors before) was calling Dougherty a “Hillary Supporter” who “brags on Facebook about voting multiple times.”

But there’s a problem: The evidence to support the conclusion that Dougherty is (1) a Clinton supporter and (2) someone who actually committed voter fraud in order to help Clinton is thin to not there.

For one thing, the tone of his post appears to be sarcastic.”Isn’t North Carolina nice they give you a sticker every time you vote… No ID required,” he wrote in the original post, which has since been deleted. In a couple of comments to his tagged friends in the post, Dougherty said he voted for one of his friends with a “straight Democratic Party Ticket. What you wanted but too embarrassed to admit.”

The director of the Onslow County Board of Elections told a local paper that they had confirmed Dougherty only voted once, and that he’d called to apologize to the board after his post went viral. According to the director, Dougherty said that his post was intended as a joke, and that he has been getting death threats and furious phone calls to his home.

The matter isn’t totally closed, though, because the state Board of Elections is ultimately responsible for investigating claims like these, which they are in this case. In a statement to The Intersect, the state board’s spokesman Patrick Gannon said the following:

“The State Board of Elections office has been in contact with Mr. Dougherty and is investigating. We take very seriously all claims and allegations of voter fraud. Anyone who indicates on social media or elsewhere that they’ve committed voter fraud in North Carolina will be investigated.”

Dougherty since posted a public apology:


(Screenshot/Facebook)

Every major election, there are tons of unproven, unwarranted accusations of voter fraud circling around online. Occasionally, however, there are more credible instances of suspected voter fraud. 

4. The trending hashtag #DraftOurDaughters is an alt-right meme, not a Clinton campaign initiative. 

Trending hashtags have a tendency to be noticed and misunderstood, particularly in this campaign season. Such was the fate of #DraftOurDaughters, an anti-Hillary alt-right meme that involved photoshopping fake Clinton campaign materials. Basically, the meme claimed that Clinton was aggressively pursuing a plan to draft young women into the military, usually for a war against Russia.

Heat Street credits the initial idea to 4chan, which seems to be the most likely culprit here; Mic notes that the main Trump-supporting Reddit group believes it started on Facebook. But wherever it began, the meme spread rapidly through the alt right. One Redditor collected a bunch of pre-made images for the meme into one place to make it easier to troll Twitter with the hashtag while it trended on Friday:

This debunking has kind of a twist to it though, because as much as the hashtag and images may have fooled some into believing it came from the Clinton campaign, the idea that the meme actually fooled a ton of people appears to be bunk as well. Despite multiple claims from alt righters that legitimate news outlets covered the hashtag as genuine, we found no evidence of that.

As Snopes noted, a screenshot of the tweet we embedded above is being circulated as evidence that the meme has started turning women against Clinton (the Facebook thread is here, and comes complete with sexist observations in the comments). But the Twitter account in question was recently created, and appears to only tweet content about the hashtag. And a Buzzfeed post being passed around as evidence of “mainstream” coverage? Yeah, that’s a Buzzfeed community post, which anyone can create. It has since been deleted from the site.

5. The lamestream media and/or the Clinton campaign didn’t photoshop an image of a rally to make the crowd look bigger.

4chan did.

A claim circulating in both conservative and anti-Clinton progressive circles accused the Clinton campaign and the media of badly photoshopping a crowd at a small Bill Clinton rally to make it appear as if the audience was much larger. It’s part of a bigger meme, particularly among Trump supporters, that Clinton and her surrogates don’t draw crowds to their rallies that are as big and impressive as Trump’s.

But the photoshopped image was first uploaded to 4chan this weekend, literally with the file name “Rally photoshopped.jpg.” Some have added even more circles to the image in order to point out additional duplicates in the crowd.

“What was fake on the Internet this election” will publish every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through at least the week of the elections, or until all of this stuff starts to taper off. 

More reading: