Thousands of supporters of President Trump attended a rally in Washington DC on November 14. The event was promoted by a number of far-right organisations and militia groups. Large scale pro-Trump Facebook groups that hosted extensive voter fraud disinformation and calls for violence following the election also promoted the event. In the lead up to the rally, our analysis captured 17,950 posts from hate communities promoting a range of different protests planned for DC on November 14, all with a focus on pushing disinformation narratives around the election result.
On the day of the protest we observed a number of extremist channels promoting violent content. Channels linked to the Proud Boys, one of the far-right groups that took part in Saturday’s rally, shared a host of threatening and violent posts during the day. As clashes broke out in DC between Proud Boys members and counterprotesters, one Proud Boys Telegram channel shared footage of anti-Trump protesters and posted a gif image of a noose. Later in the evening, the same channel posted footage of a man injured on the ground and speculated whether it was the same man seen in an earlier video hitting a rally attendee. “If that is the case we celebrate his injury and hope it is permanent”, a post on the channel stated. Both of these posts were viewed over 3,000 times.
Larry Cook, a high-profile anti-vaccination activist and Trump supporter, posted in a 200,000 member group he runs, claiming “antifa” were active in DC and that armed rally attendees should “shoot them all”. According to reports, Cook said the post was removed by Facebook shortly after he posted it.
Fraudulent Voting Machines and CIA Programs: Voter Fraud Narratives Continue to Receive Extensive Amplification Among Hate Communities
Voter fraud narratives continued to evolve during this period, with numerous conspiracy theories spreading throughout the fringes of the web and gaining a foothold on larger mainstream platforms. Among our observed communities, conspiracy groups, QAnon followers and pro-Trump hate communities have amplifed two theories in particular during this week.
A tweet claiming to show proof of voter fraud from Ron Watkins received significant amplification from these communities during this period. Watkins is a former administrator of 8kun, the site where posts from Q, the person(s) behind QAnon, originate. Following Election Day, Watkins used Twitter to push baseless voter fraud disinformation and one such tweet, posted in reply to a tweet from Trump, was shared 69,499 times by hate communities during this week. Watkins has repeatedly claimed that electronic Dominion voting machines were used to delete Trump votes or switch them to Biden. The same claim is now being promoted by the President and has also found enormous support among hate communities. One of the most shared posts in this week’s data was a tweet about Dominion that was shared over 400,000 times.
Another widely shared link was to an article promoting the theory that CIA computer programs were used to hack the result of the presidential election. This link was shared 5,142 times during this period by the hate communities we are monitoring. A Politifact fact-check reported that proponents of this conspiracy believe one CIA program, called Hammer, was used to hack into protected networks, while another, called Scorecard, was used to change vote totals. The video upon which this claim was based has been shared widely on Facebook, though it now features a label stating it is “false information”. Yet the same video has received over 80,000 views on YouTube and includes no label to indicate it is a baseless claim or “nonsense”, as Christopher Krebs, Director of the US government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, described it.
BLM Co-Founder’s Letter to Biden Sparks Rise in Anti-BLM Hatred Among Far-Right Communities
During this period, our analysis captured far-right communities directing hate towards Black Lives Matter (BLM), and its co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, who wrote a letter to President-elect Joe Biden requesting a meeting with him and Vice President-elect Sen. Kamala Harris. Far-right communities amplified an article by a right-wing website that described BLM as a “Marxist” organisation and the piece was shared 4,593 times by these communities during the period observed. When shared, users frequently added terms labelling BLM as “radical leftists”, “anti-white” and a “domestic terrorist organisation”. Other claims reacted to Cullors’ statement in her letter that “we [BLM] want something for our vote”, implying that BLM support was used by the Democrats as part of their supposed theft and rigging of the election.
One high-profile far-right activist wrote a response to Cullors’ letter, claiming that if Biden openly supports BLM, he will be “sacrificing America”. This was shared 693 times among anti-Black communities captured in our data.
Following the release of the letter, misogynistic comments targeting Cullors were also captured in our data, with various slurs used to denigrate and target the BLM co-founder. Amongst the most-shared links from these users was a YouTube link from 2015 in which Cullors said she and Alicia Garza, another co-founder of BLM, are “trained organisers. We are trained Marxists”. The comments are frequently used by far-right communities to label the entire movement as a far-left organisation, as noted by Politifact.