Time to Fact Check the Fact-Checkers

We were all shocked on Election Night 2020 when, even though the election was looking favorable for Donald Trump, multiple states abruptly stopped counting votes. The night continued to drag on and continued into the following day, and it appeared every report was positive for Biden up until the time he eventually was named the President-Elect.

Trump's campaign had repeatedly stated that it would “release the Kraken” and provide evidence of fraud in elections and focus on electronic voting machines; however, the evidence did not materialize. In RedState's report, Scott Hounsell pointed out various cities and states – right all the way down to the precincts which need to be investigated and also that the information was handed to the Trump campaign but without any results.

The main reason for Hounsell's ” Excuse Me While I Call BS” series was that the claimed results of the general election were totally inconsistent with what was documented in voter registration data for the past four years and also with what was expected given the performance of Trump over Clinton in the 2016 election. For instance:

In the state of Pennsylvania, Trump has won every county he was able to win in 2016, with one exception, which he won, and he also picked up another county which Clinton took in the year 2016. The enthusiasm in the polls for Biden were less than those with Clinton within PA. In the state that Trump won with more than 45,000 voters, Democrats lost 48,000 of their voters, while Republicans gained 150,000 more. They have outperformed with minority groups and enjoyed record support from the party and Democrat crossover votes. Yet, Trump only leads by 110,000 votes? BS.

While Hounsell could not at the time establish the cause of the incident, it appears that Catherine Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips of True the Vote have some evidence through cell phone location data and surveillance of ballot drop boxes video, and much more which suggests that there was an organized effort in crucial states (those where a tiny amount of votes could affect the state, and consequently also it could affect the Electoral College) to illegally “harvest” ballots by paying “mules” to deposit them in drop boxes across the specified metropolitan area during the months leading up to the election. These numbers were low enough to be under the radar for daily counts, yet significant enough to alter the outcome of the state at Election Night. Director Dinesh D'Souza took this data and conducted interviews with witnesses to create the film 2000 Mules, in collaboration with Salem Media Group, to clarify the evidence True the Vote found.

Unsurprisingly, on the evening of May 4, just before 2000 Mules premiered at Mar-a-Lago in the evening the so-called fact-checkers were at full force trying to disprove its assertions. PolitiFact along with Associated Press are the most popular and a number of local newspapers have an AP piece, increasing its impact. Of course both the PolitiFact and AP articles are similar in the sense that they were co-ordinated. They claim that the “facts” or data they are using to try to denigrate D'Souza, True the Vote, and the film are laughably thin and some of them are not accurate.

The Associated Press claims that 2000 Mules could not show there were “at least 2,000 ‘mules' who were paid to illegally collect ballots and deliver them to drop boxes in key swing states ahead of the 2020 presidential election” principally because the results have been “based on false assumptions about the precision of cellphone tracking data and the reasons that someone might drop off multiple ballots, according to experts,” however, the article mentions other areas where they believe that the film has perpetuated the myths.

Let's review the many assertions the AP is claiming “2000 Mules” got wrong.

Geotracking/Cell Phone Location Data

As per Gregg Phillips, True the Vote analyzed more than one petabyte (1,000 Terabytes) of information from mobile phones that were used in Phoenix, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Las Vegas, covering the period of October 1 to Election Day (and through January 6 in Georgia to take care of elections in the Senate race). In Atlanta, the group says they used the information and they found the presence of 242 “mules” who met their requirements (visited 10 different drop-off boxes for ballots and at least five other non-profit organizations identified as “stash houses”) during the period of time. The following is the AP's take on it: 

Experts say that location data from cell phones, even when it is the most advanced levels, can accurately track a phone just a few feet away but not enough to determine if someone has actually left a ballot in the mail or simply strolled or drove by.

“You could use cellular evidence to say this person was in that area, but to say they were at the ballot box, you're stretching it a lot,” said Aaron Striegel, a professor of engineering and computer science at the University of Notre Dame. ” There's always a pretty healthy amount of uncertainty that comes with this.”

It's not the case. In the very first paragraph of the quotation, the writer claims that experts claim that smartphones are able to be tracked with accuracy within the range of a few meters. Based on the meaning of “a few” in this instance, it could be between six and nine feet. This isn't a lot, but it leaves a fair amount of doubt. We're not only talking about one trip to the polling booth.

Articles in the Washington Post and the New York Times are also describing the location information of cellphones as extremely precise and reliable. For instance, on May 4, the Washington Post published an article, and sparked fears that the patriarchy might make use of phone numbers for determining who had an abortion if abortion becomes illegal in certain states:

Smartphones are able to collect exact details of your location all the way to the location of your building for the purpose of powering map services and others. In some cases, the fine print of app privacy policies grants companies the ability to sell this information to other companies who could provide it to advertisers, or anyone who would like to pay for the information.

On Tuesday, Vice's Motherboard blog announced that, for $160, the company bought a week's worth of information from a firm called SafeGraph that tracks patients who went to over 600 Planned Parenthood clinics and the places they went afterward.

A 2019 New York Times series, “The Privacy Project,” provided a wealth of information about how detailed this information could be. In a report from the project, titled “Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy,” Times reporters reported on what they discovered when they analyzed an information file that contained 50 billion location-based pings from 12 million Americans in a period of about a month in the years 2016 and 2017. In the introduction, they say:

Each item contained in this file corresponds to the exact position of a single phone during the [time].

According to the Times, this data isn't merely the result of large-scale technology or surveillance by the government and is accessible to anyone who wishes to pay for it.

The information reviewed in the report by Times Opinion didn't come from a giant tech or telecom firm and it didn't come from a surveillance operation run by the government. It was a location data firm that was one of the dozens that were quietly capturing precise movements through software that was slipped onto mobile phone applications. It's likely that you've never had any idea about these businesses — yet for anyone with access to the information, your life is a book. They have access to the places you travel to throughout the day or evening, who you visit or have a night out with, and where you go to pray, whether you go to an addiction clinic or a psychiatrist's office, as well as a massage salon.

Furthermore, the AP writer points out that there are numerous reasons people could have been close to a polling station several times, considering that they are located in highly-trafficked places such as libraries, government buildings, or college campuses where people are likely to go. It's certainly true. But will they be frequenting these locations late at night, or after midnight? Do they also attend five different nonprofits that are focused on getting out the vote?

In 2021, the Times published a story that read, “They Stormed the Capitol. Their apps tracked them.” concerning the protesters of January 6. In the article, they mentioned that, since their article in 2019, the following information was made available:

Contrary to the data we examined in the year 2019, this latest data contained a fascinating detail which was a unique ID number for every user who is connected to smartphones. This makes it easier to locate people, since the supposed anonymous ID could be found in other databases that have the same ID. This allowed us to include actual names, addresses, emails, phone numbers as well as other information on smartphone owners in just a few seconds.

The IDs, also known as mobile advertising identifiers, permit companies to monitor users across the web and in applications. They are meant to be secure, and smartphone owners can change the IDs or completely disable them. Our research shows that the false promise of anonymity is an absurdity. Numerous companies provide tools to enable anyone who has data to compare IDs to other databases.

The data that was purchased through True the Vote most likely included information about the location of mobile ads. This would permit True the Vote to discern the true names and addresses that are associated with each “mule” device's owner in seconds. This comes into play when the AP cites the following claimed reason for why it's possible that the True the Vote analysis could not be accurate:

True the Vote has stated that it has filtered out those whose “pattern of life” before the election was to frequent drop box and non-profit places. However, this strategy won't remove people who tend to spend more time at drop-boxes during the period of the election, cab drivers whose routes do not follow a particular pattern, or those whose routines have changed recently.

It won't be able to eliminate them in the event that the group didn't contain other data, for example, the identifiers for mobile ads. However, True the Vote offers more than just this. For instance, the group maintains a chain of custody logs for the drop boxes that are in question which allows them to know what time election workers visited these drop-off boxes in order to take ballots. They can also prevent mobile phones in the area at the moment from being put into the “mule” category.

Gloves used during the Georgia Senate Raceoff

Investigators discovered that during the 2020 Georgia Senate runoff, specifically on the day following December 23, 2020, many of the mules on surveillance footage were wearing blue medical gloves as they approached the drop boxes for ballots. Gregg Phillips attributes that development to the arrest that occurred a day earlier to the runoff of an Arizona woman who was accused of fraud on the ballot and says that the FBI utilized fingerprints to identify the perpetrator.

However, according to the AP, the “mules” were just wearing gloves due to the cold outside. We all have gloves made of blue for keeping our hands warm during winter. We then toss them out before returning to the vehicle or arriving home.

This is just speculation. It doesn't take into account the more probable reasons for wearing gloves during the winter and fall of 2020 -cold weather or COVID-19.

Georgia's Jan. 5, 2021 Senate runoff election was held in the coldest days of the winter months in Georgia and also when COVID-19 was rising. Actually in 2020, the AP recorded numerous instances of COVID-cautious voters who wore latex gloves and other personal protective equipment in order to vote.

The voting on mail ballots on this year's Georgia Senate runoff started shortly following November 18th, 2020 when ballots were sent out by mail. The nighttime temperatures on December 23, 2020 until the 5th of January, 2021, weren't significantly colder than the previous months before, and in actual fact between December 29 to January 3, 2021, temperatures at night within North Atlanta were warmer than the average daily low.

In the film, the woman with the phone, who seems to “live” in South Carolina according to True the Vote, is depicted wearing blue medical gloves while she deposits several ballots in the drop box located within Fulton County, Georgia, in December 2020 . . .

. . . Then, after the ballots are secured in the ballot box, she puts the gloves in the adjoining garbage can.

It can’t be too cold out there.

Naturally, AP does not have any explanation on the reason why someone would be there at midnight, placing several ballots in the box. I'm sure they'll argue that it's just an honest person who has just finished their night shift and has been diligently taking every one of their old relatives' ballots to their drop boxes. However the hardworking individual likely visited 10 other drop boxes for ballots and also made five trips to the non-profit organizations that were alleged to have served as storage houses.

This is 100% legit.

Photography Ballots/Ballot Boxes

As per the AP fact-check:

In a similar, speculative allegation the film alleges that alleged “mules” took photographs of ballots prior to dropping the ballots into drop boxes to be paid. In all of the U.Svoters frequently capture photographs of their ballots prior to submitting them.

Of the envelopes, perhaps. Maybe one of their own envelopes will be placed in the dropping box. What is the proof of the AP claim that U.S. voters “frequently take photos of their ballot envelopes before submitting them”? There's no reference to any study or story which proves this claim. But who is the photographer of a pile of ballots? What do they prove to the individual voter? What is the value of taking a photo of the box from a few feet away, when trying to prove that they have deposited an election ballot into the ballot box?

Multiplied Devices within One Car?

To disprove the claim of the movie that “In Philadelphia alone, True the Vote identified 1,155 “mules” who illegally collected and dropped off ballots for money,” AP pointed out it was true that True the Vote wasn't able to get surveillance footage in Philadelphia and included a 200-word speculative tale from a Pennsylvania lawmaker:

Pennsylvania state senator. Sharif Street…told the AP that he was certain that he was one of the 1155 unnamed “mules,” even though Street didn't make any deposits into an unmarked drop box within the time frame.

Street said he has based his conclusions on the reality that he is carrying a cell phone, a watch with a cellular connection, a tablet with connectivity to a mobile network,and a mobile hotspot for devices whose location can be monitored by private firms. Street said that he also is traveling with a staff member who is carrying two devices which brings the total number of devices that he carries to six. During the 2020 election campaign, Street said, he carried the devices on his trips to offices of nonprofits and drop box rally rallies. Street also drove past a drop box as many as 7 or 8 times per day while traveling between his two offices.

However, his visits to non-profit offices may satisfy True the Vote's requirements for being included within the “mule” pool, since we don't know for certain the offices of nonprofits within Philadelphia True the Vote was focussing on, it's impossible to be sure that he visited at least five of the nonprofits he targeted. If there was a reason, what was it? This isn't about The Boys & Girls Club here.

It's also possible that investigators would observe that six devices were traveling in a group to different locations, then they'd investigate further and find how the mobiles were visiting legislative buildings and offices of the campaign. Utilizing other data, like mobile advertisement identification numbers, they'd be able to establish that they were registered with an elected official and not a mule.

The author should be ashamed of the fact that this story — which may be true or not be true — is used as a fact check.

Dropping Ballots Off to Family Members

In the event of determining how shocking and significant surveillance footage of a large number of people who stuffed several hundred (or even more) of ballots in drop boxes might be, it's vital for the old media to attempt to explain why that happened.

This AP fact check asserts it is true that “2000 Mules” didn't properly take into account instances where the voter was dropping off ballots at the drop boxes for family members, and asserts that there was no way to connect those voters to the location information on their cellphones that the Vote possesses. The the only “proof” AP puts forth to support their claim is a single story and one incident in Georgia where surveillance footage of a man dropping six ballots in the drop box was examined and revealed that the person was depositing ballots for his family and himself:

In certain states, in an attempt to prove their claims, True the Vote also showed surveillance footage from drop boxes which showed voters putting numerous ballots in the boxes. But, there was no way to determine if those voters were from the same group as those whose mobile phones were tracked anonymously.

For instance, Larry Campbell, a voter from Michigan who was not mentioned in the movie, said to The Associated Press he legally dropped off six ballots at the local drop box in 2020, one for himself, his wife, and four of his adult children.

The claim that “there was no way to tell whether those voters were the same people as the ones whose cell phones were anonymously tracked” is laughably in error. First of all, the videos are timestamped. True the Vote has all of the information from the phones in that area at the moment, which means they can identify the ID of every device that was in the area at that moment. They also know the location of the device prior to and after its visit to the drop box for ballots. With the help of an identifier for mobiles that is used to advertise, they can determine the owner of the mobile – and the number of relatives they have.

We are aware that True the Vote investigators did investigate the identities of those who owned particular devices, as Phillips stated in the film that the woman featured in the above image was located in South Carolina but was a “mule” in Georgia during the general election as well as during the Senate Runoff.

A Few “Mules” Were Also at Antifa Rallies

We have yet another example where AP employs speculation to create a “gotcha,” but this time, they've found an opportunity to incorporate their political spin into the “gotcha.” To attempt to disprove the assertion made in the film that certain “mules” identified in Georgia were “violent far left actors,” according to the AP due to the fact that they had devices that “were also geolocated at violent antifa riots in Atlanta in the summer of 2020,” they wrote:

The data that is anonymized as True the Vote Tracked does not explain the reason why someone could have been present at protests calling for accountability for Black deaths that occurred at the hands of officers. The people that were tracked may have been violent rioters but they could also be peaceful protesters, firefighters, or police responding to the protests or business owners from the vicinity.

Of course, the way AP reports on the riots, they're in fact “protests demanding justice for Black deaths at the hands of police officers.” Please spare us. Sure, it's possible that the devices of first responders could be a part of the rioters, but what about business owners? Maybe, but from my memories of video footage of the riots when they began going to violence, most business owners weren't at the scene. People who stayed on to defend their premises were the one-off, not the norm.

They're also using their “anonymized data” trope to suggest that there's any way True the Vote could have discovered who owned the device or they did not. In the above paragraph the device could have easily identified the name and identity of each Mule. We don't know for sure in the present they could have.It's obvious that “fact checks” claiming to discredit the plot of 2000 Mules don't pass the test, and aren't containing any actual facts that could be used in a courtroom — in contrast to the facts presented in the film.

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