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Charlie Kirk Twitter Account Locked for Spreading Voting Misinformation to His 1.8 Million Followers

Newsweek logo Newsweek 10/19/2020 Jason Murdock
Charlie Kirk wearing a suit and tie: Charlie Kirk speaks at Culture War Turning Point USA event at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio on October 29, 2019. © MEGAN JELINGER/AFP/Getty Charlie Kirk speaks at Culture War Turning Point USA event at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio on October 29, 2019.

The Twitter account of conservative activist and author Charlie Kirk was locked over the weekend for spreading misinformation.

Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA, a student-focused right-wing activism organization, confirmed on Sunday that he did not have access to his profile, telling Fox News he was in a "hostage situation" with the social networking platform.

Twitter said in a lock notification to Kirk that one of his posts had violated rules "against posting misleading information about voting." Elaborating, Twitter warned: "You may not post content providing false information about voting or registering to vote."

The rule-breaking tweet that was flagged included false information about a ProPublica story published October 16 about applications for mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania. The outlet reported 372,000 ballot requests had been rejected by state officials.

According to ProPublica, more than 90 percent of the applications were duplicates as users who made requests did not realize they had checked a box indicating they also wanted ballots for the general election. In confusion, application requests were sent in multiple times, including one person who submitted 11 duplicate requests.

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Kirk's Twitter account was locked after he falsely asserted it was 370,000 mail-in ballots that were rejected by Pennsylvania state officials, not ballot applications. The right-wing activist currently has more than 1.8 million followers on the social media site.

He posted: "Pennsylvania has just rejected 372,000 mail-in ballots. One voter was said to have submitted 11 duplicate ballots. Pennsylvania might be the key to winning the White House. What's going on?" (Punctuation added by Newsweek.)

During his campaigning for re-election, President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed —without evidence—that the mail-in ballot process is open to fraud or manipulation.

Twitter's civic integrity policy, updated this month, explains that the platform cannot be used "for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections," which includes "posting or sharing content that may suppress participation or mislead people about when, where, or how to participate in a civic process." Twitter says any user who breaks the policy for the first time will have their profile temporarily locked until the post is removed.

That appears to be the case with Kirk, whose account is once again active. In place of the misleading post about Pennsylvania mail-in ballots, a notice now reads: "This tweet is no longer available." Kirk has been contacted for comment by Newsweek.

graphical user interface, text, application: The tweet on the far right, since deleted, included voting misinformation, according to Twitter. Google/Screenshot © Google/Screenshot The tweet on the far right, since deleted, included voting misinformation, according to Twitter. Google/Screenshot

Twitter became embroiled in controversy last week after aggressively stopping the spread of a New York Post story that made unverified claims about Joe Biden and his son. CEO Jack Dorsey said in a tweet his site's response was "unacceptable."

As the 2020 U.S. presidential election approaches, Twitter's policies have tightened in an attempt, it says, to reduce attempts to "undermine the integrity" of its platform.

"We believe we have a responsibility to protect the integrity of... conversations from interference and manipulation," the website rules state.

"We prohibit attempts to use our services to manipulate or disrupt civic processes, including through the distribution of false or misleading information about the procedures or circumstances around participation in a civic process. In instances where misleading information does not seek to directly manipulate or disrupt civic processes, but leads to confusion on our service, we may label the tweets to give context."

The ProPublica story was co-published with The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Disclaimer: Charlie Kirk is a Newsweek columnist.

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