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US midterm elections: misinformation to watch out for

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US midterm elections: misinformation to watch out for

– Copyright AFP/File JOHN WESSELS

Daniel FUNKE

With midterm election campaigns in the closing stretch, Americans could face an onslaught of misinformation about the results. Recent trends suggest alleged voter fraud will be one of the biggest themes.

Claims of foul play — despite being repeatedly debunked after the 2020 presidential election — have permeated voters’ minds. Nearly 40 percent of Republicans and a quarter of Democrats might blame fraud if their party does not win control of Congress on November 8, according to a recent Axios-Ipsos poll.

Such an outlook, with social media weaponized by political operatives and potentially by foreign actors, poses an ongoing risk to democracy in the United States.

“There is going to be a continued effort to undermine confidence in the system,” warned Larry Norden, senior director of the Elections and Government Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal-leaning think tank, citing “lies around the election” as his biggest fear.

False and misleading claims are bubbling up.

In Colorado, partisan websites misconstrued a database error as a coordinated effort by Democrats to get non-citizens to vote. Social media posts in Alaska and Ohio misled some voters into believing that mail-in ballots without the proper postage would not be counted.

Election officials across the country have set up webpages to prepare for a misinformation deluge. Still, two years on from debunked conspiracy theories and dozens of defeated court cases from former president Donald Trump and his allies, experts say partisan beliefs are unbowed.

“We do have some portion of the American public that does not believe in the legitimacy of the 2020 election — despite all of the extensive evidence,” said Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), during a press briefing this month.

With voters increasingly likely to turn to social media for updates, experts recommend taking claims of a rigged election with extreme caution.

“In fact, our election systems are quite secure,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor and fraud expert at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA). “Voter fraud tends to be small and isolated.”

– Fraud is rare –

The 2020 presidential election was the most secure in American history, according to CISA. Litigation, audits and recounts have since backed that up, contradicting repeated claims from Trump that stolen votes put Joe Biden in the White House.

“None of the charges of widespread fraud turned out to be true,” said Charles Stewart, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Election Lab, while noting “this is not the same thing as saying there was no fraud.”

Isolated cases were detected after the last general election. But of the more than 65 million absentee ballots cast in 2020, there have been 12 criminal fraud convictions, according to a database maintained by the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation think tank.

Studies compiled by the Brennan Center, which reviewed fraud cases prior to 2020, also found wrongdoing is uncommon. Americans are more likely to get struck by lightning than impersonate someone at the polls, according to a 2007 report from the policy institute.

“When fraud occurs in elections, it’s most likely to occur for small, local elections where there’s not a lot of attention being paid,” Stewart said. “The fraud claims for really big elections are particularly rare.”

Americans who do commit such crimes face harsh penalties. Those convicted on charges related to the 2020 election were fined thousands of dollars, and some face jail time.

“Voters should look to official sources of information — and to experts and those in the press who focus on election issues — to figure out when claims of vote-rigging are legitimate or just more nonsense,” said Hasen of UCLA.

– Ballots are verified –

Claims of dead people voting and videos supposedly showing malfeasance at the polls reached large audiences in 2020. But there are numerous safeguards to prevent ballot tampering in person, and by mail.

Elections officials verify the eligibility and identity of voters requesting absentee ballots by using techniques such as signature matching. They also implement several security measures, including locks and tamper-evident seals, to protect drop boxes.

Once ballots are cast, there are “protocols in place for assuring the chain of custody,” Stewart said.

“Every step along the way, election workers are recording how many ballots they have, who’s transporting them (and) numbers are reconciled at every place they’re removed or exchanged.”

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Moore Digital Names Two Executives To Serve Nonprofit Fundraisers 02/07/2023

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Moore Digital Names Two Executives To Serve Nonprofit Fundraisers 02/07/2023

Moore Digital, which assists nonprofit clients with fundraising, has named Adva Priso as chief strategy officer and Bonnie Huey as senior vice president of
digital media.

They are joining a team of “more than 70 top digital experts from across the for-profit and nonprofit industries, including strategists,
media planners and …



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Pinterest Now up to 450 Million Active Users, Posts Solid Numbers in Latest Performance Report

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Pinterest Now up to 450 Million Active Users, Posts Solid Numbers in Latest Performance Report

Pinterest has posted its Q4 and full-year earnings for 2022, showing steady increases in both users and revenue, as it continues to build out its various offerings.

First off, on users, Pinterest added five million more active users – most of them coming from Europe – within the final measurement period of last year.

That’s a good sign for Pinterest, which actually lost users in early 2021, after the COVID-induced boom in eCommerce activity of the previous year, which saw the platform post record high usage numbers.

Many analysts and businesses seemed convinced that the COVID boost to online shopping would hold, even after the pandemic ended. That lead to companies like Meta, Google, Amazon and Twitter investing big into commerce solutions – but many of the staff they put on were eventually culled in the most recent round of lay-offs, because once physical stores re-opened, people actually did go back to shopping as normal, as opposed to continuing to rely on online options.

Pinterest felt that the most, but now, it’s steadily building back up again, as it continues to refine its solutions around evolving shopping behaviors. Which includes video content.

Pinterest’s big winner on this front has been Idea Pins, its Stories-like option which presents uploaded video in a swipeable, full-screen display.

Pinterest Ideas Festival updates

The emphasis on this format has helped boost the platform’s appeal with younger audiences, with Pinterest reporting that Gen Z was the fastest-growing demographic on the platform, increasing double digits year over year.

“Gen Z sessions grew much faster year over year than sessions from older demographics, while nearly half of all new videos pinned in Q4 were from Gen Z users.”

Pinterest also says that sessions continued to grow faster than MAUs, an indicator that it’s driving better engagement overall, while it also increased its overall video supply by 30%, another marker of the popularity of Idea Pins.

Because you can’t post video as a native pin anymore, only in Idea Pins (or paid ads), underlining the focus on the format, and Pinterest’s evolving usage.  

On the revenue front, Pinterest posted a 4% year-over-year increase, after bringing in $877 million Q4.

Pinterest Q4 2022

As you can see in this chart, Pinterest’s revenue is climbing steadily, though its revenue splits remain concerning:

Pinterest Q4 2022

Or maybe you see this as an opportunity, with Pinterest still able to potentially eek out a lot more revenue from regions outside of the North American market. Definitely, it’s got some work to do in that ‘Rest of World’ bracket.

But Pinterest is still developing, and is still expanding its ad and business offerings into new regions. So there is, indeed, potential there – yet the size of the gap here is a concern.

Still, there is growth, slowly but surely, and maybe, if you’re a believer, you can see more ways for Pinterest to generate much bigger revenues moving forward.

Pinterest remains focused on shopping, and highlighting relevant products to users, with its ever-evolving recommendation engine providing better content matches to more users every day. It’s also investing in live-stream shopping, a trend that all platforms hope will catch on in western markets, while it’s developing more presentation tools for Idea Pins to capitalize on that engagement.

In combination, these approaches are working – but at the same time, usage growth in your local market may have stalled, going on these charts.

And of course, while overall growth is interesting, what marketers want to know is whether their customers are there.

For this, you can use Pinterest Trends, which enables you to search for the most popular Pin trends by region.

Pinterest Trends

Tap into these with Idea Pins and you’ll likely be on the right path, based on these latest insights from the app.

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These Guys Are Stupid, And I'm Being Charitable

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These Guys Are Stupid, And I'm Being Charitable

Why do some organizations still solicit funds the way they did in the 1960s? You need to take a smarter marketing approach, or you’ll waste money like they do. I’m still getting about two bucks a month in cash from stupid, misguided charities that insist on sending me actual money in the mail. I get …

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