A Twitter account misleading Democratic voters in Virginia by telling them they could cast their ballot by text message was active for almost three hours on Tuesday morning before Twitter suspended the account. The account, “MAGA Mike King,” was suspended after it tweeted more than a dozen times a graphic purportedly instructing Virginians on how to vote by text and including the logos of the Democratic Party and its gubernatorial candidate, Ralph Northam. The account doesn’t appear to have had much success spreading its message, with less than a handful of interactions on each of the offending tweets, but to some observers that’s almost beside the point. Their concern is that the account remained active for almost three hours out of the 13 hours that polls are open in Virginia, despite the fact that Twitter knows these sorts of efforts are a potential problem on its platform, and has claimed success in fighting back against them.
A similar voter suppression campaign, which attempted to convince supporters of Hillary Clinton that they could vote for her by text, went viral ahead of last year’s presidential election.
At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the role of social media in the 2016 election last week, Twitter touted its response to that voter suppression campaign as an example of how it works proactively to combat such efforts.
Twitter said that it had deactivated 529 accounts that pushed the misinformation and that tweets refuting the “text-to-vote” campaign had eight times more impressions than the campaign itself.