FLORIDA — Voting rights groups are warning this week of a late-stage surge of pandemic-related disinformation targeting voters in swing states, including Florida.

What You Need To Know

  • Activists say they've seen attempts to "weaponize the changes in our society" this election season

  • Misinformation includes attempts to tell certain voters they can vote early, or by text

  • Groups have called on Facebook and Twitter to do more to purge misinformation

Representatives of the groups, including Common Cause, Stop Digital Voter Suppression and the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative, gathered virtually to detail what they say are digital messages aimed at suppressing turnout among minority voters.

"We've seen disinformation attempts that weaponize the changes to our society," said Common Cause's Jesse Littlewood. "In my neighborhood, we have senior hours at the grocery store. We're seeing attempts to use that kind of information to disenfranchise individuals by telling them the wrong day, time or place to vote."

Littlewood pointed to messages his group has identified that falsely claim Democrats can early vote on certain days and Republicans only on others, in the name of social distancing. Other messages have wrongly suggested that votes can be cast via text message.

​Confusing voters about the process of voting has been a hallmark of disinformation peddlers since the 2016 election, Shireen Mitchell of Stop Digital Voter Suppression said.

"We're watching different versions that we're tracking of the same kinds of messaging," Mitchell said.

In some cases, the source of disinformation confronting swing state voters is publicly known. Department of Homeland Security officials this week confirmed that intimidating emails sent to hundreds of Florida voters purporting to be from the Proud Boys white supremacist group were actually planted by Iran.

In other cases, the origins are unknown. Between now and Election Day, however, ​the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative's Karen Kornbluh argued it's incumbent on online platforms like Facebook and Twitter to step up their efforts to purge disinformation.

"They cannot wait until something has gone completely viral and then say 'oops, that's a problem'," she said.

The representatives urged voters who believe they've been targeted with disinformation to report it at http://www.866ourvote.org​ or the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline.