A Quiet Election on Disinformation | Elections Quebec 2022

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A quiet election in terms of disinformation | Élections Quebec 2022

The misinformation that circulated during the last Quebec election is mostly remained confined to certain online communities that were already spreading fake news.

The integrity of the electoral process was the target of misinformation during the last campaign.

If the Quebec election ended without much surprise at the polls, the Decrypters team was surprised to find that election disinformation barely reached the general public.

As Mathieu Lavigne, director of McGill University's Project on Electoral Disinformation in Quebec, notes, much of the misinformation about the election has remained confined to a very specific web community, which he calls a vocal minority.

It is a community that has a certain lack of confidence in traditional institutions, as much political as media and scientific. She tends to get her news mostly online and makes a lot of noise, he says in an interview with the Decrypters.

This community is made up of many of the same people and influencers who spread misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines, and climate change.

“As several studies of misinformation show, believing misinformation about one issue increases the likelihood of believing misinformation about other issues. »

— Mathieu Lavigne, Director of the Project on Electoral Disinformation in Quebec

If it is reassuring for democracy that disinformation occupies less space in Quebec elections compared to other elections around the world, the doctoral student in political science still regrets that it can threaten social cohesion, break up families and create parallel realities, as was the case during the pandemic.

We observe that the communities that spread misinformation online are more organized than in the past, he adds.

Mathieu Lavigne is the director of the Quebec Electoral Disinformation Project.

The Quebec Electoral Disinformation Project monitors the spread of election-related falsehoods on social media. But another axis of the project consists in surveying a hundred Quebecers daily on their perception of misinformation.

At the mid-election, the preliminary results of these surveys showed that 63 % of Quebecers somewhat or strongly agreed that misinformation is a serious problem during an election.

Because of all the talk of misinformation since the 2016 US election, there are a lot of people who are concerned about the issue. Now, some studies suggest that the concerns of individuals may be more important than the actual effect that misinformation can have on elections, argues Mathieu Lavigne.

This article was originally published in the October 8 edition of the Decryptors newsletter. To get exclusive content like this, as well as analysis on all things web misinformation, subscribe by clicking here.

One ​​of the trends in the community where electoral misinformation spread was the questioning of the integrity of the electoral process.

We saw a lot of fears that the workers of Elections Quebec would change the votes before counting them. At the start of the campaign, people were also talking about voting by mail, which is quite rare in Quebec, or even machines that would count the votes incorrectly, when all the votes are counted by hand, lists Mathieu Lavigne.

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Supporters of the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ) have also expressed so many doubts about the integrity of the lead pencil vote that leader Éric Duhaime reminded his supporters shortly after the start of the advance poll , that their ballot could be rejected if it was marked other than with the lead pencil provided at the polling station.

It took the leader of the Conservative Party, Éric Duhaime, to remind his supporters that ballot papers filled in with a pen could be rejected.

Since the release of the results, the people who work for us have seen an increase in the volume of allegations of electoral fraud among PCQ supporters, notes Mathieu Lavigne.

The fact remains that Éric Duhaime reiterated throughout the campaign that he believed in the integrity of the electoral process and that he would accept the results of October 3.

While dozens of Internet users were crying out for electoral fraud the day after the election in a partisan group of the PCQ, an administrator of the group and several other members tried to calm things down, assuring that the vote was not rigged by recounting their own counting experiences.

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This administrator of a Conservative Party supporters group held to reassure members that the vote was not rigged.

Pre-election survey results from the Project on Electoral Disinformation in Quebec indicated that supporters of the PCQ were less likely than supporters of other parties to believe that the election would be administered fairly: this was the case for 54% of them. , while the proportion was 84% ​​among CAQ supporters.

The pandemic was the centerpiece of misinformation for the past two and a half years, and it continued to play a role in the Quebec election.

It showed up in fears about what might happen if the CAQ were re-elected. We have seen, for example, videos on the construction of COVID concentration camps, relates Mathieu Lavigne.

The independence of the media and polling firms, perceived by some Internet users as being controlled by the CAQ, also caught the attention of the research team.

The Quebec Electoral Disinformation Project will release its final report on the Quebec provincial election in early 2023.

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