Anna Sheffer
October 18, 2018 1:30 pm

The 2018 midterm elections are just weeks away, and countless sites, orgs, and individuals are encouraging others to get out and vote. However, some Twitter users have apparently been tricking their followers into registering to vote—and they’re using fake news to do it.

BuzzFeed News reports that a viral tweet from user Tim Cigelske—which teased an article about the reasons why Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson broke up—actually links to Vote.org. And a number of similar bait-and-switch tweets have appeared in recent days—one even from Elle.

In a Medium post about his tweet, Cigelske wrote that more than 2 million people have clicked on the link he shared as of October 18th. Even celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Colin Hanks, and James Corden retweeted the prank, making sure that millions of people were exposed to it.

In his post, Cigelske explained that he was inspired by a similar viral tweet from Ashlee Marie Preston, who shared a link to Vote.org that claimed to contain news about Kim Kardashian and Kanye West splitting up (nobody panic—as far as we know all is well in Kimye land). He explained that, as with Preston’s tweet, he had hidden the Vote.org link with a bit.ly and added a photo of Grande and Davidson. He noted he was surprised to see his fake news story get so many clicks.

Of course, it’s not clear how many people actually registered to vote after clicking on Preston and Cigelske’s links. It does seems that the fake news stories were enticing enough to work on some people, though.

However, many feel the strategy is deceptive—especially when actual magazines started getting involved.

While these clickbaity tweets seemed to have helped some people register to vote, disseminating fake news is never okay and should not be encouraged. Even more, this tactic is downright condescending. Instead of attempting to trick people onto a voter registration website, why not just outline the very real and critical reasons why voting in the midterms is important. Not to mention the fact that this tactic seemingly implies that if you’re a person who would click on a link about big pop culture news, you’re also not someone who’s registered to vote (a common, but completely false, assumption).

The best way to get young people to vote is to inform them, not trick them. Now, let’s put this behind us and focus on casting our ballots on November 6th.

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