Twitter suspended several accounts on Wednesday that were posing as US news organizations and prematurely declaring an election victory for Democratic candidate Joe Biden in what appeared to be a coordinated disinformation effort.
The accounts mimicked the account names and logos of the Associated Press and, in at least one instance, CNN -- news organizations that typically predict US election results. Most of the tweets announced a false victory for Biden while at least one account said that President Donald Trump had won re-election, the Wall Street Journal reported.
One fake account involved in the apparent effort, labeled as AP Politics, tweeted Wednesday afternoon: "BREAKING: Democrat Joe Biden wins election to U.S. Presidency, wins both Michigan and Nevada #APracecall at 5:52 p.m. EST. #Election2020 #NVelection"
The account was quickly taken down, but not before other Twitter users identified it as a phony and questioned Twitter's fact-checking process.
"These are bogus accounts not affiliated with AP," said Patrick Maks, a spokesman for the Associated Press. "AP's race calls will be tweeted from @AP and @AP_Politics."
A Twitter spokesperson said the accounts were permanently suspended for violating the social network's policy on impersonation, which prohibits accounts that "pose as another person, brand, or organization in a confusing or deceptive manner."
Twitter said the effort didn't appear large-scale but indicated it would suspend any account attempting to impersonate news organizations and undermine the public conversation about the election.
Voters went to the polls on Tuesday, but the lack of a final result a day later appears to have fueled wild rumors, false reports and premature declarations of victory, just as election security experts warned would happen.
Twitter has had to contend with tweets that suggested polls would be open the day after the election, reports of a fake AP Politics account, and rumors that Republican voters in Maricopa County, Arizona, were given Sharpie pens that wouldn't work with ballot scanning machines (the county election agency said the pens work with the ballot readers).
Twitter has also been labeling and reducing the reach of tweets that contain unverified or false claims about voter fraud. The company labeled several tweets from Mike Roman, the Trump campaign's director of Election Day operations, that contained misleading claims about voting. In one tweet that was labeled with a notice saying, "Learn about US 2020 election security efforts," Roman falsely claims that Democrat election officials are banning Trump poll watchers in Philadelphia. The tweet reads, "The steal is on!"