TIME

Homegrown Threat

AFTER MONTHS OF WATCHING COMMENTERS FLOOD his office’s social-media posts with voting myths and fielding calls about election conspiracies from constituents, Brian Corley finally got fed up. In July, the supervisor of elections in Florida’s Pasco County decided to shut down his office’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to stop false claims from spreading. “I just got tired of the misinformation and the partisan bickering back and forth,” says Corley, a Republican with 13 years on the job. “I saw no value in it as an election administrator.”

If 2016 showed how foreign operatives were exploiting social media to influence the U.S. election, the lesson of 2020 is already clear and even more worrisome: the greatest threat to a credible vote is homegrown. From the White House on down, Americans have taken a page from the Kremlin’s playbook by weaponizing misinformation online to advance their political goals. Election officials like Corley are struggling to break through an avalanche of falsehoods about mail-in ballots, doubts about the integrity of voting systems and skepticism about the validity of the results.

No one has done more to sow suspicion or spread lies than President Donald Trump, whose aggressive attacks on mail-in voting and false allegations of widespread voter fraud have capitalized on fear and uncertainty about holding a presidential election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. On television, at rallies and on Twitter, Trump has falsely claimed that mail-in ballots “lead to massive corruption and fraud,” that foreign powers will “forge ballots” and that the “only way we’re going to lose this election

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