This Week in Misinformation: Certifying Arizona, Oath Keepers Convicted, The Elon-Apple Skirmish of 2022
1 December 2022
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Reliability scores for media outlets cited in the summary are in parentheses for each, courtesy of the terrific folks at Ad Fontes Media.
Now, on to our top stories.
The Arizona election has ended, but election trutherism will go on.
Kari Lake, who is refusing to concede the race she lost for governor (Associated Press, 48.80), tried suing Maricopa County (The Hill, 43.37), the state’s largest jurisdiction. The accusations were so unsubstantiated, however, that the judge applied sanctions to Lake’s lawyers for filing such a shoddy case (Forbes, 43.33).
On a parallel track, Lake’s supporters worked the court of public opinion angle by turning out for the Maricopa canvass hearing (AZ Central, 43.97). They addressed the officials aggressively, rattling off many of the same debunked nonsense that has been going around for weeks. Some QAnon types called for a “revote” (AZ Mirror, 43.70). Probably the greatest hope Lake supporters had was to prove that the malfunctioning of machines at a large share of the polling locations on Election Day disenfranchised her voters, but it turns out that didn't happen (Washington Post, 39.79). Maricopa ultimately certified its election without further drama (AZ Mirror, 43.70), while in Mohave County (AZ Central, 43.97); and Cochise County (Reuters, 47.48) election truther officials caused delays by trying, contrary to the law, not to certify. But, eventually, they all did (NPR, 43.09).
Lake and others have vowed to keep “fighting” (read: fundraising) using the machine-induced disenfranchisement theory (New York Times, 42.65). This defeat at the polls does not appear to have persuaded everyone in the Republican Party that campaigning on 2020 denial was a mistake (CNN, 42.44).
Several Oath Keepers were found guilty of very serious federal charges for what they did before and on January 6th.
Leader Steward Rhodes and one other were found guilty of seditious conspiracy (NBC News, 45.46), while all those tried were convicted of at least one of the charges brought.
This outcome might offer a preview as to the many other January 6th-related cases that will soon go to trial (New York Times, 42.65), for example the one that will decide if Proud Boys also committed sedition (Law and Crime, -).
Elon Musk went to war with Apple over a thing that never happened in reality.
First, some facts: a) Apple is still dropping a lot of money advertising on Twitter (Gizmodo, -), and b) by Musk’s own later reckoning, at no time did Apple threaten to pull the bird app from the App Store (via Twitter). But Uncle Elon, along with a good number of friendly Republican electeds (Forbes, 43.33), launched an intense rhetorical assault against Apple because they believed that the tech giant had virtually stopped its advertising and issued the App Store threat (CBS News, 46.07). Things got patched up only Tim Cook told Musk personally that there was no basis to any of what he was mad about.
Musk made big moves with respect to accounts previously suspended for violating terms of service, for example announcing after (another!) Twitter poll that there would be a general ‘amnesty’ (Associated Press, 48.40) in which essentially all of these users would have their accesses restored. Though Elon had pledged that a ‘council’ would decide all cases before restorals took effect (@MattGertz via Twitter), the amnesty and individual decisions he made about Alex Jones (definitely not) and Donald Trump (it’s already happened) appear to be moving forward solely on Musk’s say-so.
This is all happening against a backdrop of Twitter gradually rendering itself incapable of handling harmful, unpleasant content. Two weeks ago the company saw a 'mass exodus' of employees (CNN, 42.44), including many who operated the content moderation machinery. The recently departed head of Trust and Safety has begun speaking out about how much less safe Twitter is due to Elon Musk's management style (CNN, 42.44). It’s hard to quantify degradation of the user experience, but this downward spiral has already prompted high-profile quittings from the platform by the likes of Moby, Jim Carrey, and 50 of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers (NPR, 43.09). It has also caught the attention of regulators in the EU and US (Financial Times, 45.13).
And a-one, and a-two, and a one-two-grab bag: Twitter ends its enforcement against COVID misinformation; a text message suggests SBF might be invested in Elon's Twitter deal; the guy who wants to be House Speaker lies about Trump condemning the white nationalist he dined with; a QAnon influencer’s lawsuit reveals allegations he is a child predator; a New York Times (42.65) piece links QAnon with the Balenciaga thing; doctors in California are challenging a medical misinformation law on First Amendment grounds; the January 6th Committee gathers information from folks like Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Miller, and Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos; and Vlad Putin’s go-to conspiracy theory is called 'golden billion.'
All that, and a lot more, below. This is This Week in Misinformation.