New York Times technology and regulation reporter Cecilia Kang made the front of the Business section Monday under the headline “Toxic Election Narratives Spread Tentacles on Web.”
But Kang wasn’t content with yet another “misinformation” excoriation of the theory of a “stolen election.” She conflated opinions espoused by conservatives under that same “toxic” label, suggesting that merely calling for defunding the FBI (a new proposition in some conservative circles) and the idea that LGBTQ are “grooming” children for pedophilia were also examples of dangerous misinformation:
Ballot mules. Poll watch parties. Groomers.
These topics are now among the most dominant divisive and misleading narratives online about November’s midterm elections, according to researchers and data analytics companies.
But later on, Kang talked about calls on social media to defund the FBI, as if that was the same as claiming as fact that Trump won in 2020.
Anger toward the F.B.I. is also reflected in midterm-related conversations, with a rise in calls to shut down or defund the agency after last month’s raid of Mr. Trump’s Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago.
“Abolish FBI” became a trending hashtag across social media, mentioned 122,915 times on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and news sites from July 1 to Aug. 30, up 1,990 percent from about 5,882 mentions in the two months before the 2020 election, according to Zignal.
In a video posted on Twitter on Sept. 20, Representative Andrew Clyde, Republican of Georgia, implied that he and others would take action against the F.B.I. if Republicans won control of Congress in November.
“You wait till we take the House back. You watch what happens to the F.B.I.,” he said in a video captured by a left-leaning online show, “The Undercurrent,” and shared more than 1,000 times on Twitter within a few hours. Mr. Clyde did not respond to a request for comment.
Kang went even further afield in her quest for conservative misinformation to ban.
Some online conversations about the midterms are not directly related to voting. Instead, the discussions are centered on highly partisan issues — such as transgender rights — that candidates are campaigning on and that are widely regarded as motivating voters, leading to a surge of falsehoods.
A month after Florida passed legislation that prohibits classroom discussion or instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity, which the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, signed into law in March, the volume of tweets falsely linking gay and transgender individuals to pedophilia soared, for example.
But one doesn’t have to think every gay or transgender person is a potential danger to children to think that some actions may be making children susceptible to sexual abuse: age-inappropriate “queer” books in school libraries; children participating in drag shows; teachers boasting about discussing their sex lives with students.
The narrative was spread most widely by 10 far-right figures, including midterm candidates such as Representatives Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, according to the report. Their tweets on “grooming” misinformation were viewed an estimated 48 million times, the report said.
In May, Ms. Boebert tweeted: “A North Carolina preschool is using LGBT flag flashcards with a pregnant man to teach kids colors. We went from Reading Rainbow to Randy Rainbow in a few decades, but don’t dare say the Left is grooming our kids!” The tweet was shared nearly 2,000 times and liked nearly 10,000 times.
No critic of state censorship of social media, Kang noted in apparent approval:
Meta said it had removed several of the ads mentioned in the report.