Dec 6, 2022 - Politics

Secretary of state had disinformation pulled from Twitter

Robert Brutinel, Katie Hobbs, Doug Ducey and Mark Brnovich are seated side by side at a long table while Brutinel signs a document

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs watches Chief Justice Robert Brutinel sign the statewide election canvass, with Gov. Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich on her left. Photo: Ross D. Franklin/AP

The Arizona Secretary of State's Office said it requested that a pair of tweets be taken down nearly two years ago because they constituted misinformation that could undermine confidence in elections.

  • The email was among a tranche of messages from a federal lawsuit that surfaced over the weekend showing election officials from different states attempting to remove false allegations from social media in 2020 and 2021.

Driving the news: On Jan. 7, 2021, the Secretary of State's Office emailed the Center for Internet Security (CIS) about misinformation being spread by an account on Twitter.

  • Assistant Secretary of State Allie Bones tells Axios that the two tweets falsely suggested that the state's voter registration database was controlled by a foreign entity.
  • "One tweet asked, "Is our entire election system foreign owned?" and inaccurately claimed that the company that was contracted to implement the current registration database is foreign, Sutherland Government Solutions, while another said the company has a foreign subcontractor."
  • Twitter took down the two tweets after being contacted by CIS, and the account that posted them, which had 21 followers at the time, is currently suspended.

Context: Journalist Matt Taibbi on Friday released a series of leaked documents from Twitter highlighting the company's suppression of a 2020 New York Post story about the contents of a laptop owned by Hunter Biden, and about the company's content moderation policies, which he argues favored Democrats who sought to silence critics online.

  • Many conservatives viewed the files as vindication for their belief that Twitter had favored Democrats and targeted conservatives by removing posts from its website.
  • Some critics accused Hobbs, the state's top election official and now Arizona's Democratic governor-elect, of censoring political opponents based on the 2021 email.

Yes, but: Bones says facts aren't debatable, and that seeking the removal of verifiably false information is not silencing dissent.

  • The voter registration database is run by the Secretary of State's Office.
  • Bones also notes that the tweets had nothing to do with this year's midterm elections.
  • She says it was common for the Secretary of State's Office to ask for tweets to be taken down, though she says the majority were related to threats.

What she's saying: Hobbs addressed widespread disinformation about elections Monday during her certification of Arizona's 2022 election results at the statewide canvass, saying false claims that undermine American democracy are still prevalent.

  • "Arizona had a successful election, But too often throughout the process powerful voices proliferated misinformation that threatened to disenfranchise voters. Democracy prevailed, but it's not out of the woods. 2024 will bring a host of challenges from the election denial community that we must prepare for," Hobbs said.

Of note: Hobbs, Gov. Doug Ducey, Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel signed off on the canvass.

Why it's important: The election results don't become official until the canvass.

  • Mandatory recounts and legal challenges to the results can't occur until after certification.

What we're watching: Kari Lake and Abraham Hamadeh, the losing Republican candidates for governor and attorney general, have both declared their intent to file lawsuits challenging the results of their elections.

  • Neither candidate filed suit on Monday.
  • They have five days from the date of the canvass to go to court.

What's next: Three state-level races will go to automatic recounts — attorney general, superintendent of public instruction and one of the two state House seats in District 13, which mostly covers Chandler.

  • Democrat Kris Mayes defeated Hamadeh by just 510 votes, Republican Tom Horne defeated Democratic incumbent Kathy Hoffman in the superintendent's race by just under 9,000 votes, and Liz Harris defeated fellow Republican Julie Willoughby by 270 votes for the second House seat in District 13.
  • Hobbs said the recounts would last "well into December."

The legislature passed a law earlier this year expanding the use of mandatory recounts.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Phoenix.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Phoenix stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Phoenix.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more