Registered Democrats received suspicious and threatening e-mails. What happened?
- The messages claim to have access to voters’ personal information and threaten to “come after” voters who do not change their party affiliation to Republican and vote for Donald Trump. The message closes with, “I would take this seriously if I were you.” Some e-mails also included personal information like addresses of the recipients.
- The FBI and local Police Departments launched an investigation into the source of the e-mails, expressing concern about voter suppression. Any attempt to threaten or intimidate voters in a federal election is a crime punishable up to one year in prison.
- Many recipients of the message laughed it off as a scam, while others felt genuinely intimidated by the invasive and threatening messages.
- A spokesman for the local Proud Boys chapter vehemently denied any involvement of the Proud Boys in the incident, and said that the group has never been associated with voter intimidation. The website associated with the e-mail address, officialproudboys.com, has been taken down. Other chapters labelled the campaign a “false flag operation” designed to denigrate the Proud Boys.
- The e-mails occurred less than 24 hours after early voting started in Florida, and thousands of votes have already been cast. In a statement yesterday, a spokesman for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said that “your vote IS secret” and Americans should not fall for “sensational and unverified claims” meant to “undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections.”
- CBS and Vice News reports traced the IP addresses of the messages to servers located in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Estonia; however, this does not mean that the messages originated in these countries. One expert told CBS that there is “no indication to suggest that this is a nation-state or otherwise foreign campaign.”
- Reports that this is a large and carefully-executed operation, not a low-level hacker or punk. CNN writes that operators intentionally “leveraged multiple insecure servers that they probably didn’t own in several countries, including Saudi Arabia, to send messages.”
- Points out that Florida and Alaska, the two states most heavily targeted by the messages, are swing states. The Washington Post and The Daily Beast report that voter suppression or intimidation in Florida could impact the outcome of the entire election. Mother Jones reports that the Alaska Senate race is incredibly close, and could be swayed by only a few voters.
- Gratuitously highlights and condemns voter suppression in the United States. Democracy Now! published a long-form report yesterday on voter suppression across the country and its impact on the election. CNN published a list of tips and tricks for voting day which encourages voters to know their rights in the case they are “intimidated or turned away at the polls”.
- Reminds readers that Trump previously bungled an opportunity to condemn the Proud Boys at the last presidential debate, when he was asked to denounce white supremacists and instead told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand down.”
- Provides significantly less coverage of the incident, compared to the left.
- Has previously lifted the voices of Proud Boy spokesman Enrique Tarrio, who is an outspoken Latino Trump supporter. National Review and The Daily Wire published an editorial yesterday blasting Democrats who call Trump racist. In an interview with Vice, Tarrio called the e-mail campaign a “left-wing ploy” designed to publicly denigrate the Proud Boys.
- Reports that the Presidential election will come down to a few key swing states. Fox News writes that Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are likely to determine the outcome of the next election. Forbes points out that Biden and Trump are “neck and neck” in Florida.
- Reminds readers that Trump condemned the Proud Boys in an interview with Sean Hannity.
© Evelyn Torsher, 2020