PORTLAND, Ore. – Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
They’re good words to live by, especially this election season, and they were reinforced by a social media hoax that left hundreds confused and many upset.
A practical joker shared a post on Twitter that included what he claimed was an Oregon ballot. It showed Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton twice with no mention of Republican Donald Trump.
Twitter user John Lussier included the caption, “The Oregon state ballot doesn’t even bother with putting Trump on as a choice for president this year!”
It included several hashtags commonly used by Trump supporters, many of whom, quickly shared the tweet. Lussier also tagged several prominent right-leaning media outlets in the post to get more attention. The image was retweeted more than 1,000 times and reached thousands of people by Friday afternoon.
There was just one problem. It was a fake.
Within an hour of his first post, Lussier tweeted again, admitting his previous tweet was a hoax. He later clarified in a social media post that a friend had manipulated an image of an Oregon ballot using Photoshop.
In case it's not super obvious that last tweet from me is a hoax. Don't believe everything you read on the internet folks.— john lussier (@JohnLuce) October 21, 2016
Response from both sides of the political spectrum quickly followed with many criticizing Lussier for spreading misinformation. The hoax also spread beyond Twitter, and was being shared on other outlets like Facebook and NextDoor by late afternoon. Concerned viewers began to email the hoax Image to KGW asking us to investigate. Without context, the hoax image had gotten out of control.
The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office said it was looking into the hoax and whether it violated state elections law. Spokesperson Molly Woon stressed that the Secretary of State is confident in the election process.
Oregon ballots went in the mail to voters earlier this week. They’re due back by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Lussier told KGW he hopes people learn they need to vet the information they're sharing on social media.
"A friend photoshopped that ballot image and posted in on Facebook. I shared it on Twitter and tagged some influential folks from the #TrumpTrain on Twitter -- I wanted to see their reaction. I was not expecting so many retweets and shares. I'm now getting all kinds of replies: "Look, this all is rigged!" "Can this be real?" "My ballot has Trump on it!" After it took off I wanted to make sure folks knew it was fake, but by then it was too late. I'm not sure whether to delete the tweet, or continue replying to people letting them know, "Hey this was a hoax. You can't trust everything you read or see and we're each responsible for checking on the information we pass on." It's shocking to me how much traction this has. Folks are clearly worried about this election, and this kind of hoax resonates with their worries. At the end of the day I hope this causes people to look a little more carefully at what they're spreading, and to get out and vote responsibly. I'm glad people are finally looking at their ballots."