On August 18 2020, a photograph purportedly showing “thousands of Seattle Democrats” (at least, according to random people online) circulated on Twitter:
And Facebook, where it was picked up and passed around as a post (and as a screengrab):
On Twitter, the image was captioned:
This is a photo of thousands of Seattle Democrats gathering to demand mail in voting because voting in person is too dangerous. Democrat and hypocrite are synonyms.
On Facebook, the caption read in part:
Thousands of Seattle Democrats gather to demand mail-in voting because it’s too dangerous to vote in-person.
Concerns over the United States Postal Service (USPS) and August 2020 delays caused a groundswell of support for USPS and circulating warnings about sending ballots by mail:
In August 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the mail-in voting controversy in an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo:
Concerns over “potential issues” with USPS and ballots spiked from late July 2020 onwards; our first page about the issue was published on July 28 2020:
As August 2020 wore on, social media users discussed the integrity of USPS as it related to the November 2020 election:
Yes, but Did Thousands of Seattle Democrats Gather to Demand Mail-In Voting Because Voting in Person Is Too Dangerous?
In the Facebook and Twitter posts above, the same story was paired with the same photograph.
Descriptions — without citations, of course — claimed that the image of people gathered through a four-way intersection was part of the August 2020 discourse over whether USPS slowdowns would impact the November 2020 election. Moreover, the posters claimed it showed “hypocrites” gathering en masse to demand “mail-in voting.”
Initially, a reverse image search was unproductive, possibly due to an image being cropped or reversed. However, we did manage to find tweets featuring the image with a different explanation of the events. A June 8 2020 tweet included the image in the “Democrats gather to demand mail-in voting” posts, making it no older than that date. We found two tweets from separate accounts. Those originally described the image as a Black Lives Matter protest in West Seattle:
Misleading social media posts described an image of crowds filling an intersection as “Seattle Democrats gathering to demand mail-in voting,” because “in-person voting was too dangerous.” Discourse about mail-in voting became widespread in very late July through August 2020; the image was taken no later than June 8 2020, and actually showed a Black Lives Matter protest, unrelated to mail-in voting. The claim about the image as part of debate over voting by mail appeared to be an attempt at invoking the “straw man” fallacy, fabricating a description of an in-person protest in support of human rights and equality months previously as inherently opposed to in-person voting.