It’s not just the Russians and Chinese working to undermine the legitimacy of Western nations’ elections.
As the campaign in Wentworth highlights, Australians are perfectly capable of spreading fake news themselves.
Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps became the victim of domestically produced fake news in a widely circulated email claiming she was pulling out of the race after being diagnosed with HIV.
According to The Australian, John Howard is now going in to bat for the Liberal party in the Wentworth seat, trying to regain enthusiasm from ‘grumpy voters’ who have lost faith in the party since Turnbull’s recent ousting. But this will likely be a tough feat for Howard, having to follow the Sydney Harbour electorate by-election, which went south from Turnbull’s previous 18% two-party preferred vote.
As AAP reports, the circulating email targeting Dr Phelps emphasised her withdrawal from the running and insisted voters support Liberal candidate Dave Sharma instead.
Fake news isn’t fooling anyone
Of course, it doesn’t require 20/20 vision to see the blatant carelessness of masking this letter with an heir of professionalism. AAP, who witnessed the letter, note it is ‘riddled with typos and makes random and nonsensical references to people of Indian descent’.
And having a sneak peek ourselves, well…
‘Please DO NOT vote for her, just choose Sharma as your top choice only. Kerryn was diagnosed with HIV yesterday so no chance she will be running for election. Can you please help to remove Kerryn Phelps’s poster if you see them because we don’t have enough people to clean it up’.
Needless to say, we weren’t fooled.
But this doesn’t rid the possibility of it negatively affecting Dr Phelps’ chances. Phelps herself admits it ‘highlights the fact while we think that the stigma around HIV has gone, it clearly hasn’t’.
Howard has also voiced his concern, telling The Australian, ‘This could do enormous damage to the coalition government and I am genuinely concerned about the risk of a Liberal loss’.
He will campaign alongside Sharma in Wentworth on Thursday, before Saturday’s vote.
It’s looking to be a close race.
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