During this period, conspiracy communities amplified claims from right-wing conspiracy theorists who have alleged that Chinese agents infiltrated various economic and political offices across the US in recent years to help corrupt the electoral process and remove President Trump from office
QAnon supporters are the largest cohort of conspiracy-minded communities pushing such claims. One tweet that alleges that China attacked the US “with a biological weapon” to steal the election was shared 18,619 times, while another tweet that stated that “Communist infiltration” was widespread through Georgia and the US was shared 8,853 times by QAnon communities.
On Dec 8, Axios reported on the activities of a suspected Chinese agent who developed connections with a number of political organisations and individuals, including Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA). Axios reported that the FBI informed Swalwell in 2015 about their concerns over the Chinese national, and the congressman cut ties “immediately”, according to reports. A number of photos of the two together, confirmed as genuine by Snopes, have only heightened claims from online communities.
Among our observed communities, there is a clear belief that Swalwell is compromised, though further details are not specified. One post that claims that China “owns” Swalwell was shared 18,587 times among QAnon communities, while another that claims, without evidence, that Swalwell “colluded with CCP [Chinese Communist Party]” has been shared 14,848 times.
Separately, a right-wing media site that has frequently pushed Hunter Biden conspiracies and pro-Trump voter fraud claims published an article claiming that YouTube employs “CCP operatives”. The piece is based on screenshots of LinkedIn profiles of alleged YouTube employees who previously worked for universities or research institutions in China that, the media site claims, are linked to the CCP.
The article was shared 5,689 times among pro-Trump communities captured in our analysis, demonstrating how pieces pushing unverified claims with little evidence are gaining traction among communities online.
“We Have to Destroy the GOP”: Far-Right Communities Amplify Anti-GOP Posts From Saturday’s March for Trump
Thousands of supporters of the president demonstrated in Washington DC on Saturday, December 12, at the March for Trump. Posts promoting the rally, the president and his claims of voter fraud were amplified among our observed communities during this period. Local DC news outlet WRC-TV reported that nine people were injured, including four who were stabbed and at least 33 arrests were made after a series of clashes between Trump supporters including the Proud Boys and counter protesters.
A video showing right-wing influencer Nick Fuentes speaking at the rally was shared 597 times among far-right communities captured in our analysis. Fuentes was depicted saying, “At the first Million MAGA March we promised that if the GOP would not do everything in their power to keep Trump in office, that we would destroy the GOP”. To growing cheers, Fuentes continued and said “it has to happen now, we have to destroy the GOP”, which led to a chorus of “Destroy the GOP” chants from the crowd.
Fuentes’ activity since the election is notable as he commands a large online following and has appeared in a series of videos with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. He has fast become a prominent voice among pro-Trump communities who believe the president’s baseless claims of voter fraud and are pushing the GOP to demonstrate more support for Trump.
Other videos from the march were also boosted by far-right and pro-Trump communities captured in our analysis. This includes one clip showing Proud Boys on the streets of DC that was shared 978 times, and another clip that showed Trump passing over the rally in the Marine One helicopter en route to the Army vs Navy football game, which was shared 2,262 times.
Video Promoting Vote Switching Conspiracy Highlights Flaws in Facebook’s Political Speech Policy
A recently-released video promoting a widely-debunked voter fraud claim highlights the flaws in Facebook’s policy around fact checking politicians. When shared among pages, groups and profiles on the platform, the video generates a fact-check stating it is “false information”, though, when shared by a politician, as detailed below, it carries no such warning.
The video features footage from CNN on Election Day and shows tallies for Trump in Pennsylvania decreasing, with tallies for Biden increasing by the same number. The narrator explains to viewers that companies like Dominion voting systems were involved in tallying vote counts and stated that transfer of votes this amounts to electoral fraud. The video received a total of 69,962 shares among our observed communities during this period, particularly among QAnon and Republican communities.
To date, the video has been shared at least 12,713 times on Facebook pages, groups and profiles, alongside a fact-check stating the video features “false information.” However, the video was also shared by Mark Curran, the Republican Senate candidate from Illinois who lost to Democrat incumbent Mark Durban on November 3, who used the footage to promote a number of claims about voter fraud in Illinois and added that a “Soros sweetheart” stopped any investigation into these claims. Curran’s Facebook post features no fact-check.
Facebook exempts politicians from their third-party fact-checking program, as per their policy on elections and political speech, except when a politician shares previously debunked content, the policy site adds. Then, Facebook will “demote that content” or “display related information from fact-checkers”
It’s not clear if Curran is still a politician or a political candidate, though it is clear that the Facebook post spreading unverified voter fraud claims has been shared over 500 times, has been debunked by Facebook’s own third-party fact-checking partner and yet features no fact check label on Curran’s post, unlike the scores of other posts that have shared this video.