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False reports claim election servers were seized in Germany

November 15, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: The U.S. Army raided the Frankfurt office of the Spanish election software company Scytl to seize servers that had evidence of voting irregularities in the Nov. 3 U.S. election.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Both the Army and Scytl told The Associated Press the claim is not true. Furthermore, Scytl does not have offices or servers in Frankfurt, Germany.

THE FACTS: Social media users Saturday were sharing reports published by conservative websites claiming servers that would reveal wrongdoing in the U.S. election had been confiscated by U.S. military forces in Germany. Most posts said the servers belong to the software company Scytl, which is based in Barcelona, and some suggested the servers housed information from Dominion Voting Systems.

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The false claims followed a Zoom call this week that featured Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, suggesting that “U.S. Army forces” had seized servers from a Frankfurt office of the software company Scytl.

In his remarks, which were widely shared on social media, Gohmert acknowledged that the information about the alleged raid only came from a “German tweet in German,” and he said, “I don’t know the truth.”

The Associated Press reached out to Gohmert’s spokesperson but did not hear back.

In his recorded remarks, Gohmert said he had heard from “former intel people” that Scytl maintained data that could be “gleaned” to prove Republican votes had been changed to Democratic ones in the Nov. 3 election.

But, according to the company, Scytl does not tally votes. Nor is there credible evidence Republican votes were changed to Democratic votes in the election.

George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, tweeted on Friday afternoon: “Breaking: Congressman Louie Ghomert has stated that The U.S. Army has seized servers for Dominion in Germany.”

When asked by The Associated Press if the Army had engaged in an operation to recover servers in Germany, an Army spokesperson responded Saturday, “Those allegations are false.”

Scytl also refuted the claim. As the false conspiracy spread online, the company released a statement Friday titled, “Fact Checking Regarding US Elections: Debunking Fake News.”

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In the statement Scytl said: “We do not have servers or offices in Frankfurt” and “The US army has not seized anything from Scytl in Barcelona, Frankfurt or anywhere else.” It also says Scytl does not “tabulate, tally or count votes in the US.”

Jonathan Brill, the president and general manager for Scytl’s U.S. division, told the AP the company had a temporary connection to Frankfurt last year. “Backup servers in Frankfurt were used for a specific project for the European Parliament in 2019,” Brill said. “These back-up servers were closed in September 2019.”

Brill said when it comes to the U.S. elections, “Scytl products sold to US customers are fully housed in the US, utilizing Amazon Web Services and have never been housed in Germany.”

Scytl’s U.S. division provided four election-related products to city, county and state clients for the Nov. 3 election, including an interface to train election workers, online tools to educate voters, an online platform for voters to request absentee ballots and an online platform to display real-time election results tabulated by local election officials.

Scytl and Dominion do not have ties to one another, according to statements from both companies.

“There is no truth whatsoever to the claims,” a Dominion spokesperson wrote in an email when asked if the company stored data on servers in Germany and if it was aware of a U.S. military operation to seize those servers.

The claim is the latest in a series of false assertions about Dominion Voting Systems that have circulated since the election, including the meritless theory that the company’s voting machines deleted or switched Trump votes.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.

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This item has been updated to note that Scytl temporarily had backup servers in Frankfurt, Germany, for a project related to the European Parliament in 2019. Those servers were closed in September 2019 and had no connection to U.S. elections.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536