Donald Trump supporters have come up with a new way to try to suppress support for Hillary Clinton this November: posting fake advertisements on Twitter telling people to vote by text.
Theoretical physicist Robert McNees collected a few examples on Twitter, most coming from an account that is known for posting racist, sexist, and homophobic tweets:
Two of the three ads in the examples seem to target minority voters, with one of the ads written entirely in Spanish. (It says essentially the same thing as the English ads.)
One ad says, “Avoid the line. Vote from home. Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925.” It’s clearly designed to look like an actual Clinton ad — it even says “Paid for by Hillary for President 2016.”
Similar fake ads have been circulating for a few weeks, with a previous version telling Clinton supporters they can vote online.
For the record, you cannot vote by text or online. But the risk here is obvious: Some people may not know that you can’t vote by text or online, see the fake ads, try to vote from home, and never have their actual votes counted. If the ads mostly reach Clinton supporters, then that could benefit Trump. It’s a pretty nefarious scheme.
This isn’t the only way Trump supporters are apparently aiming to stop Clinton voters from reaching the polls. Previously, Trump supporters told the Boston Globe that they plan to intimidate nonwhite voters on Election Day.
On the other hand, the account posting the fake advertisements is fairly small and obscure — so chances are it’s not having much of a reach. The risk is someone with a bigger audience trying the same idea.
But so far Twitter has not taken action on these tweets. (They were still up last time I checked.) McNees said Twitter told him in an email that the fake ads don’t violate the platform’s terms of service — which is obviously very concerning.