A deceptive video released on Sunday by the conservative activist James O’Keefe, which claimed through unidentified sources and with no verifiable evidence that Representative Ilhan Omar’s campaign had collected ballots illegally, was probably part of a coordinated disinformation effort, according to researchers at Stanford University.
Mr. O’Keefe and his group, Project Veritas, appear to have made an abrupt decision to release the video sooner than planned after The New York Times published a sweeping investigation of President Trump’s taxes, the researchers said. They also noted that the timing and metadata of a Twitter post in which one of Mr. Trump’s sons shared the video suggested that he might have known about it in advance.
Project Veritas had hyped the video on social media for several days before publishing it. In posts amplified by other prominent conservative accounts, Mr. O’Keefe teased what he said was evidence of voter fraud, and urged people to sign up at “ballot-harvesting.com” to receive the supposed evidence when it came out. (None of the material in the video actually proved voter fraud.)
Mr. O’Keefe’s promotional posts had said the video would be released on Monday, but Project Veritas released it on Sunday instead, a few hours after the publication of The Times’s investigation. The Stanford researchers concluded that this timing was unlikely to be a coincidence.
“It’s a great example of what a coordinated disinformation campaign looks like: pre-seeding the ground and then simultaneously hitting from a bunch of different accounts at once,” said Alex Stamos, who led the research team at the Stanford Internet Observatory.