If you head to Google to learn the final results of the presidential election, the search engine helpfully walks through the final electoral vote tallies and number of seats won by each party in the House and Senate. Under that, Google lists some related news articles. At the top this morning, with an accompanying photo: a story arguing that Donald Trump won both the popular and electoral votes.
That’s not true.
The Daily Show’s Dan Amira noticed that numbers were being spread on social media that linked back to the “70 News” site. The 70 News article cites its source as a tweet, which cites as its source USASupreme.com, another random website which doesn’t actually include the numbers themselves. It does, however, argue that Hillary Clinton is “probably not going to win the actual number of votes cast. She may win the number of votes counted, but not the votes cast.” That distinction is … not really clear, except that the author, “Alex,” seems to believe that absentee ballots are only counted if the tally could make the difference in the election.
That’s not true, either.
In light gray text above the link to 70 News, Google relays the actual current tally of counted votes: Clinton has a lead of about 700,000. That lead has grown since Election Day and will almost certainly continue to grow, since millions of the votes being counted are from California, and the plurality of those votes are from very-Clinton-friendly Los Angeles County.
The source behind the “USA Supreme” website isn’t clear. It looks an awful lot like Prntly, a made-up news website we looked at earlier this year. Founded by a former convict named Alex Portelli, Prntly is part of the broad diaspora of websites that takes news about American politics, frames it in a pro-Trump way (often at the expense of accuracy) and then peppers the page with ads. In an email, Portelli denied involvement in USA Supreme, suggesting that it was the work of a group of young people in Macedonia first reported by BuzzFeed. These sites leverage the inability of Facebook and other social media sites to weed out nonsense in order to get clicks and make money from advertising — a remarkably lucrative endeavor, particularly in a country where the U.S. dollar stretches a lot further.
Why Google includes 70 News as a news source isn’t clear. Among the main categories of news stories the site lists in its header is “Hillary’s Health,” which links to a number of rumors about the health of the Democratic nominee. Under “Politics” is a story that, among other things, links the Council on American-Islamic Relations to Al Qaeda. Another story suggests that protestors against Trump in California were being paid to do so.
70 News has added a header to its post about the election results.
“Anyone asking where I got the figures, it was from twitter posts. Knowing the Democrat media have been dragging their liberal feet giving Michigan to Trump – finally they did, with Arizona finally declared two days ago – Trump now has the 309. Except for the twitter posts, the popular vote number still need to be updated in Wikipedia or MSM media – which may take another few days because the liberals are still reeling and recovering from Trump-shock victory. If I’m wrong, I won’t hesitate to change the numbers. It’s the job of the establishment media to tell the people the final numbers when it’s out there already.”
None of that is true, either.
The “establishment media” has regularly updated election results, showing Clinton with a wide popular vote lead. The reason that Michigan hasn’t been called is that Trump’s lead is 12,000 votes, and the results haven’t been finalized. New Hampshire also hasn’t been called for Clinton; her lead there is under 3,000 votes. “Alex” is wrong; he’s hesitating to change the numbers.
If you’re interested in tracking the final vote tallies in the presidential race, you can simply search Google and keep an eye out for the small print under the electoral college totals. If you also see an article from a random site you’ve never heard of? I might recommend you take its numbers with a grain of salt.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Philip Bump