Diebold Demolishes Some Straw Men

by on November 3, 2006 · 0 comments

Via Slashdot, Diebold is pissed off about HBO’s new documentary “Hacking Democracy.” They say it’s full of inaccuracies. For example:

The first of these material errors is the statement that Diebold tabulated more than 40 percent of the votes cast in the 2000 Presidential election. Diebold was not in the electronic voting business in 2000. Diebold purchased Global Election Systems in 2002, but Global had at the time only eight percent of the market.

Oh wait, it turns out that they haven’t actually seen the film. But they say the promotional materials on HBO’s website suggest the film contains these errors. Of course, they couldn’t be bothered to provide a URL or an in-context quote of the claims in question, so for all I know Diebold is wildly misrepresenting what it says on the website, which could be different from what the documentary says.

In fact, I just perused the website in question, and I don’t see any claim about Diebold’s market share in 2000. Moreover, HBO specifically denies that the documentary makes any such claim.

Diebold also claims that the documentary incorrectly blames a Diebold machine for deleting 16,022 Al Gore votes in 2000. But I assume they’re getting that from this page, which simply mentions “an electronic voting machine.” Maybe the film names Diebold specifically, but since Diebold hasn’t seen the film, how would they know?

They also bring up the old canard that Avi Rubin had a conflict of interest because he had some stock options from a “competitor” called VoteHere. There’s just one problem: VoteHere doesn’t manufacture voting machines, and so they’re not a Diebold competitor. They develop Internet voting software, a market I don’t think Diebold is in at all. But that hasn’t stopped them from trotting it out at every opportunity in order to smear a prominent critic.

The whole letter strikes me as a very ham-handed effort to muddy the waters and deflect attention from the central argument of the HBO documentary. Their strategy seems to be to misinterpret or misrepresent some claim in the documentary (or that they predict will be in it anyway), “debunk” the straw man they just created, and then call for canceling the show on that basis. It’s a strategy that requires an impressive amount of chutzpah. But it also seems likely that it’s a sign of desperation: if they had responses to the substance of the documentary, they wouldn’t have to resort to these kinds of gimmicks.

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