Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and artist Disem.EXPAND
Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and artist Disem.
Photo by Meg O'Connor

Someone Sent Fake Text Messages to Smear Gillum Before Election Day

Compared to various parts of Georgia and New York, voting lines and acts of voter suppression don't seem to be particularly awful in Miami today. But that doesn't mean people still aren't trying to screw some candidates at the last minute. According to screen caps provided to New Times, someone spent yesterday blasting out a fake text message that's clearly — and laughably — designed to scare voters toward voting for Ron DeSantis or away from the polls entirely.

It's unclear how many people received the following message or where it came from, but it certainly raises questions that won't be answered until after Election Day. Contacted by New Times, both the Gillum campaign and Florida Democrats confirmed they had nothing to do with the text message. Nobody answered the number attached to the message when New Times called it.

Here is how it read: "Hello this is Phil from the Andrew Gillum campaign for Florida. He recently announced that he wants to end Stand Your Ground because it is a racist ideology and a way for white people to kill black people and he will raise taxes on anyone making over $25,000 per year an additional 10% out of their paycheck and possibly a 38% sales tax to support public transportation. Can we count on your vote tomorrow for Mr. Gillum for Governor?"

Someone Sent Fake Text Messages to Smear Gillum Before Election Day

But it's easy to deduce the text is a fake, especially because it's full of grammatical errors.

Moreover, Gillum has not proposed those tax ideas. More obvious, there is no income tax in Florida, so the idea that he would tax anyone making more than $25,000 per year at 10 percent of their income is insane. If that were true, it would be a huge deal for many people. But it's simply not true. The same goes for the 38% sales tax. Gillum has instead proposed raising the corporate tax rate from 5.5 percent to 7.75 percent mostly to fund public education.

Gillum has proposed ending Florida's Stand Your Ground, however, and has argued the law is racist.

Such is the problem with text-message-based campaigning: It's extremely difficult to determine the source of the messages or who's funding them. Campaign text messages are something of a new invention for this election cycle — multiple news outlets have noted the flood of unsolicited texts that voters have received this year.

But there is evidence that some countries have already had an actual "fake news" problem with text-messaging apps. Brazil last month elected a right-wing lunatic, Jair Bolsonaro, as president. Bolsonaro has endorsed torture, the former Brazilian military dictatorship, and murdering his country's own civilians. But Brazilians who use the popular texting platform WhatsApp — which is owned by Facebook — were flooded with fake stories about leftist and centrist candidates in Brazil. (Bolsonaro's rich backers have been accused of funding the messages.) Some analysts worry those fake messages helped swing the election.

In Texas and other places, numerous Twitter accounts urged liberals to vote Wednesday even though the election is being held today, Tuesday.

As for Gillum, this single text is unlikely to sway many votes.

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