Conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins spearheaded a disinformation operation during this period that generated significant support among our observed QAnon and far-right communities. Watkins was an administrator for 8kun, the site where posts from Q, the person(s) behind QAnon originate, though according to him, he left that role at the beginning of November. Since the election, Watkins has been busy promoting baseless claims of voter fraud in support of President Trump, including conspiracies that allege that voting machines run by Dominion Voting Systems were used to delete Trump votes or switch them to Biden votes.
On 30 November, US District Judge Timothy Barren ruled that voting machines in Georgia could not be impounded or preserved. Watkins claimed this ruling would result in the voting machines being wiped or destroyed, along with supposed evidence of widespread voter fraud, and so he urged his followers to start surveilling buildings that they believed house Dominion machines in the state to “prevent foul play”. This has been accompanied by an online campaign around the hashtag #DominionWatch.
#DominionWatch represents a dangerous escalation that has resulted in QAnon and pro-Trump conspiracy theorists livestreaming around the clock outside buildings in Georgia, following staff as they enter and exit the premises and accusing them of committing voter fraud. Communities captured in our analysis have significantly amplified footage that supports the #DominionWatch disinformation operation. One tweet that featured footage of computers being loaded onto a truck, which the Twitter user claimed were about to “be crushed”, was shared 53,498 times by QAnon and far-right communities.
Late on 30 November, Watkins shared two YouTube clips on Twitter that he claimed showed a Dominion representative at Gwinnett County Election Central committing voter fraud on camera. Watkins claimed the video shows him “download data to a USB, plug it into a laptop, manipulate the data, and then palm [hide] the USB”. Far-right communities quickly identified and named the person and he has since been subjected to harassment and death threats. Tweets stating his name alongside graphics of a noose have been amplified by QAnon supporters. At the time of writing, Watkins continues to promote baseless and false claims about Dominion voting machines and #DominionWatch.
“Trans and Jewish lives are at stake” - Anti-Trans Book Promoted Among Far-Right Communities Online
Between 25 November and 2 December, our analysis captured a total of 1,967 posts, comments and tweets by hate actors across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit discussing the LGBTQ community. These primarily originated from misogynistic communities (39%), QAnon communities (16%) and far-right communities (15%).
Much of the discussion during this period revolved around a recently published anti-LGBTQ book that claims to uncover the “actors financing the institutionalization of transgenderism”. Author Scott Howard says that his book, The Transgender Industrial Complex, “pulls the mask off the complex network of influential groups responsible for this inhuman project”. The most shared link among anti-LGBTQ communities during this period was an interview featuring the author on a far-right content creator’s Bitchute channel, which has been viewed over 6,000 times in one week.
LGBTQ activist James Finn analysed the book and published a review online, calling it “racist, antisemitic nonsense”. According to Finn, the author claims the roots of “transgenderism” (the author’s term) can be traced back to Jewish people in 14th century Europe and that it is not a “grassroots phenomenon, but an international conspiracy directed by Jews in Davos, Switzerland”. Antisemitic claims can be found throughout the book, Finn said, while one user on Amazon echoed this and said “Not only is the narrative it claims historically revisionist and entirely false, it is deeply dangerous to trans and Jewish people”.
On Twitter, the author has referred to transgender people as “grotesque” and Jewish people as “pedophiles” .The book was published by Antelope Hill, whose site also features books that defend or promote the Nazi party, British fascist Oswald Mosley and General Franco, the former dictator of Spain.
Anti-Lockdown, Pro-Reopen Communities Rally Behind Businesses Defying COVID Restrictions as Case Numbers Surge
COVID-19 case numbers across the US continue to surge, forcing states to once more impose restrictions on businesses and social events that had reopened or resumed after earlier lockdowns. This has spurred an uptick in activity from anti-lockdown, pro-reopen communities online. During the analysed period, disinformation about the severity of COVID-19 and threatening rhetoric towards governors and other politicians was observed, as well as posts that promoted or defended businesses that are defying local restrictions.
One website, set up as a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for businesses that receive fines for refusing to close, was shared 138 times among anti-lockdown communities. Another site, set up to collect signatures in support of a restaurant owner who was arrested when he refused to close his business, was shared 152 times among the same communities.
Separate from this analysis, in the past week, we’ve also observed prominent members of the Proud Boys organising rallies in defence of businesses that refused to close in New York and Washington states.