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4chan trolls attempted to clog Iowa caucus results hotline

'Uh oh how unfortunate it would be for a bunch of mischief makers to start clogging the lines.'

Feb 6, 2020, 11:26 am*

Tech

Nahila Bonfiglio 

Nahila Bonfiglio

The phone number used to report Iowa caucus results was posted online Monday, along with encouragement to “clog the lines.”

Blocked phone lines were blamed, in part, for issues in reporting Iowa’s caucus results. The phone number was discovered on an internet message board Monday night, indicating that trolls may be responsible for some of the jammed lines.

An official for the Iowa Democratic Party told Bloomberg News that some of the calls came from “supporters of President Trump who called to express their displeasure with the Democratic Party.” A political trolling forum called /pol/ on 4chan was responsible for the posted phone number.

Alongside multiple occurrences of the posted number were instructions for callers.

“They have to call in the results now,” one user posted. “Very long hold times being reported. Phone line being clogged.” The post went up at around 11pm Monday evening, according to NBC News. Other users quickly pounced on the invitation, sharing their wait times on the forum and encouraging their fellows to “clog the lines, make the call lads.”

“Uh oh how unfortunate it would be for a bunch of mischief makers to start clogging the lines,” another user sarcastically wrote. The jammed phone lines combined with several other issues to prevent the results from being announced on-time. A smartphone app, intended to ease the process of reporting issues, did not work properly. Issues with coding, according to NBC, also resulted in improperly reported votes.

Iowa officials strove to prevent interference in reporting the results. One volunteer, Iowa state auditor Rob Sand, told NBC that some of the calls he received appeared to be the result of the 4chan post. “A lot of calls came in at a certain point where it was clear somebody had published the hotline number somewhere,” he said. Thankfully, he—along with other volunteers—were able to easily identify fake calls.

“If I picked up the phone and it was clear after the first handful of words that someone was not calling to report the results, I just hung up.” The system in place, according to Sand, is set up to prevent people from reporting fake results.

While Sand did not report getting any calls from Trump supporters, the communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party, Mandy McClure, noted that such calls were relatively common. According to McClure, the hotline received “an unusually high volume of inbound phone calls to its Caucus hotline, including supporters of President Trump.”

McClure stressed that the calls, which were reportedly occasionally hostile, did not affect the “integrity of information gathered or the accuracy of data sets reported.” It is unclear how many prank calls were made, and how heavily the influx of calls influenced wait times.

Mike Carberry, chair for a precinct in Iowa City, shrugged aside claims that prank calls heavily contributed to the clogged lines. “I’m sure that they got some calls, but those could be sorted through relatively quickly,” he said. Other officials agreed, noting their opinions that any interference likely played a minor role.

H/T NBC News

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*First Published: Feb 6, 2020, 11:20 am