Retreads of previously debunked rumors were part of the disinformation attacks that swarmed Election Day 2020 in the United States, and one particular tweet about a mysterious pile of bricks placed in Chicago (archived) inspired significant chatter across social media platforms:
Alongside tags of several other users, @JJ_Boogie described what was “supposedly piles of bricks” which were “mysteriously showing up” in Chicago:
Supposedly piles of bricks mysteriously showing up in Chicago tonight. Lovely!
If the claim sounded familiar, it was because it was prolific on social media amid June 2020 protests over the death of George Floyd. In a June 5 2020 post, FactCheck.org explained:
Some viral social media posts misleadingly suggest that piles of bricks are being staged ahead of the protests over the death of George Floyd to incite violence. We reviewed five social media posts making such claims and found no evidence of staging. In many cases, the bricks had been delivered for construction projects, or had been at the sites for some time.
Additionally, a thread on r/conspiracy indicated that a separate subreddit — r/WhoseBricksAreThese — had been banned by Reddit’s moderators the day of the election; visiting r/WhoseBricksAreThese appeared to validate the claim:
As the rumor about the mysterious election day bricks in Chicago spread across platforms, Daily Dot reporter Mikael Thalen tagged the tweet as possible disinformation and started a thread about his efforts to track down the image and find an explanation for it:
Thalen validated the location of the bricks using Google Maps and Street View, and called the business seen in the image to ask about the pallet of bricks. A representative for that business confirmed that the bricks were intended to be used for construction on a nearby patio, and Thalen added that the photograph was out of date as well as out of context:
He included an image purportedly taken outside the establishment on November 3 2020, indicating that the bricks had indeed been moved well before November 3 2020:
Given the wide reach of mid-2020 rumors about “mysteriously placed” pallets of bricks in various large American cities, it was likely that any standing “pile” of bricks would make its way to social media as voters headed to polling places. Some of the posts were likely innocent recitations of rumors the posters previously heard, but potential for accelerationists (and others who wished to seed doubt and chaos around the results of the election) to weaponize the posts and sow discord was cause to be mindful of any such rhetoric. Like “mysterious piles of bricks” rumors that appeared months before the election, the image purportedly taken in Chicago was placed in the most alarming context possible and quickly spread among those agitating for unrest on election night.