Sorry, but Voting by Text Is Not a Thing
Election Day is nearly upon us, and the entire country is waiting with bated breath to see the outcome. Election efforts this year focused a lot on getting millennials informed and caring about politics, which means there were also a lot of tech innovations happening to push people 18-35 to vote. Google made it easier to find voting info, Tinder implemented a feature that would tell you who you should vote for based on how you swiped on certain issues, and Twitter allowed users to register to vote via DMs.
All of these were intended to be innocent and helpful features, but unfortunately sometimes bad stuff gets through too. Twitter inadvertently let false campaign ads through that told users they could vote for Hillary by texting “Hillary” to 59925 (just to be clear, this does NOT do what it says). When an ad looks as legit as this one does, it’s easy to understand why a lot of people fell for it.
— Robert McNees (@mcnees) November 2, 2016
At first when physicist Robert McNees noticed and reported these tweets directly to Twitter, they found the false ads to not be a violation of their ToS. Um, what? False advertising is bad enough normally, but especially when it comes to something as important as the election. Elections have undoubtedly been bolstered by misinformation before, but this takes it to a whole new level.
Luckily Twitter re-reviewed the Tweets and saw the error of their ways. Some accounts that had posted the ads were banned, and good thing too — some had followers upward of 15,000. The number 59925 was also taken over so that it now informs would-be voters of the false ad.
This could have been disastrous — since millennials comprise roughly one third of the United States population and about 77 percent of millennials own a smartphone (not to mention those who own basic phones)… think of all the texts! We shudder to think of the damage that could have been done. Thankfully we still have people looking out for things like this. Stay alert out there, guys.
Do you think ads like these should have a more severe punishment? Let us know @BritandCo!
(h/t The Verge, photos via Getty)