The general elections on July 23 have been followed by a wave of disinformation that says there has been a fraud to alter the results. This is a conspiracy theory that is sweeping TikTok, whose algorithm means that the more videos you consume with disinformation narratives about this alleged electoral fraud, the more they will continue to appear on your feed.
“Everyone votes the same for Congress and for the Senate, it’s obvious”. “The Central Electoral Board has said that the voting results are not valid”. These are some of the most repeated messages regarding a supposed electoral fraud. At Maldita.es, we have collected 118 videos that TikTok’s algorithm has shown us during the week following the general election to analyze disinformation spreading in the platform.
Recurrent disinformation narratives that follow current affairs
In these 118 videos we have identified 25 disinformation narratives that are repeated throughout the investigation, some of the most prevalent being those that claim that there has been a rigging because the vote figures by party in Congress and in the Senate do not match (23 recurrences) or that they are hiding the real electoral results but that those videos are shedding a light on it (21). The analysis of the videos indicates that the algorithm amplifies these most repeated narratives. The videos that spread them are the ones with the most views.
In addition, we find narratives that question the electoral system in Spain. One of the most repeated messages has been that the system is fraudulent (21), that the Central Electoral Board has admitted that the results are rigged (11), or that Indra (company in charge of transmitting provisional results) has leaked a graph with the real ones (21), Vox being the second most voted party.
When calculating recurrences, it must be taken into account that the same video can have up to three different disinformation narratives. Thus, in the 118 videos analyzed we have identified 25 disinformation narratives that support the conspiracy theory of electoral fraud. In total, they appear 143 times in the analyzed sample.
The disinformation content that has been disseminated has been closely linked to the political news of 23-J, such as that in Villarroya (La Rioja), which is the town that always votes in a few seconds due to its scarce population, where it’s claimed that the vote was rigged in favour of PSOE, the Spanish socialist party (11), or that a train incident that took place in Valencia and stopped the service for a few hours on the day of the vote (4) is due to a plan organized by Pedro Sánchez and PSOE to prevent citizens from voting.
At Maldita.es we have debunked the most viral disinformation narratives that we have analyzed and we detail them below.
The theory that claims that there has been a fraud as the seats in Congress and the Senate do not match
“It is very rare that PP has obtained a majority in Congress and not in the Senate. The vote of both always coincides”. Out of the 118 videos analyzed, this is one of the most viral contents on TikTok about an alleged punch on 23-J.
In total, 27 of the recommended videos claim that electoral fraud has been committed due to the fact that the number of seats of the parties that participated in the 2023 general elections are not the same in Congress and in the Senate.
At Maldita.es we have already explained that the systems are different for each chamber: in Congress there is a proportional distribution and in the Senate the vote is nominal, so it is perfectly possible to have different results. In fact, the PP received almost the same support in both chambers: 8,091,840 votes for Congress and 8,068,370 for the Senate.
This narrative accumulates more than 1.5 million of the more than 7 million reproductions of the collected videos, which represents 21% of the total.
From an alleged fraud in Villarroya (La Rioja) to the conspiracy theory of stopped trains to prevent voting
From the 118 videos analyzed, the example of the videos (11 located on TikTok) and tweets that share that in the town of Villarroya, in La Rioja, there has been a fraud because a man voted twice in favour of the socialist party. But in this town in La Rioja PSOE did not receive any votes. The town hall of the municipality assures that the second envelope that the man introduced was empty and "marked on the back", therefore, they considered it "invalidated".
With over 2 million views it has been the most viral disinformation narrative we’ve collected on TikTok.
Another of the most repeated videos defend, without any type of evidence, that the incident that occurred early in the morning in the Valencia train service on July 23rd was the work of Pedro Sánchez and PSOE so that the passengers could not vote.
“In Madrid, if PP had had 1,749 more votes, it would have obtained one more seat. And PSOE one less. Do you better understand why a Valencia-Madrid tunnel "was flooded" at dawn on 23-J, leaving thousands of people from Madrid without voting?”, says one of the videos, although finally with the vote from Spanish citizens living abroad PP obtained one more seat, taking it away to the PSOE in Madrid.
But they do not provide evidence that this is real and, a few hours later, at 10:50 in the morning, Adif, the railway administrator in Spain, already reported an "alternative transport plan with road transfer" for the affected routes.
Another content claims that the government prevented Vox from being voted by not sending their ballots so the Socialists could win in certain provinces, such as Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Navarra.
"In the Province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, it was not possible to vote for VOX, no ballots arrived." This is another of the disseminated messages about how it was not possible to vote in this province because there were no Vox ballots. This is a hoax, since Vox did not run for Congress in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, as the video says, nor in Navarra to the Senate, as this other account claims.
The narrative that the "fraud" has been made public: the Central Electoral Board "admits" the false results and those that are supposedly real are circulating
"The Central Electoral Board has said that the data on the results of the elections that Interior/Indra has given are invalid, they are false." With this message, content that ensures that after knowing the provisional results, the Central Electoral Board has admitted that they are rigged has gone viral, with almost half a million views. The users themselves who share the videos assure that they have not read this content “in any media nor have they seen it on any newscast”.
In these videos, the disinformation content always ensures that a final electoral count is still to be made. These videos are asking for something that the electoral law already marks, which is the holding of a general scrutiny that takes place five days after the elections. In this, it is verified that the documentation coincides and the CERA vote is added (the one issued by Spaniards living abroad. This year it was held on July 28, 2023).
Along with this video, images have also been shared in which the real results of the elections supposedly are shown. This is the case of a graph with the Indra logo that indicates Vox would have been the second most voted political party in Congress and in the Senate. In Maldita.es we already explained that it was a false image.
Moreover, several of the registered videos (a total of 4) that have shared this image have in common that they claim that these results are real because "they are more similar to the reality that we Spaniards were living and feeling on the streets", as this user explains in his video.
Finally, these contents are also accompanied by a doctored video of the Spanish journalist and news presenter, David Cantero, in which he supposedly comments live that "how is it possible that Vox in Spain has not stopped filling public events and has lost 19 seats?” and accuses the results of the general elections of being a sham.
This is a hoax: the audio that accompanies the video is manipulated, it does not match the movement of the lips and there are sentences that do not make sense. In total, the videos collected that spread this same content have been viewed a total of 241,800 times, as of July 31, 2023.
The videos analyzed have in common that they cast doubt on the electoral process and that the results of the 23-J elections are true. This narrative is followed by leaks of the alleged real results. In addition to this, according to the videos collected, they take advantage of current events to create conspiracy theories, such as that the incident with the trains in Valencia or the supposed fraud in Villarroya were a government plan to manipulate the results.
They also share the idea that Vox had to be the group with the most votes because it is what was voted by the majority "in their environment" and reflects the reality that "the Spaniards on the streets" feel.