Over the course of November 3, our analysis captured over 24,000 posts, comments and tweets by hate actors across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit.
We saw hate communities promote disinformation in real time on Election Day, with social media interactions far eclipsing numbers regularly seen in our analysis. These communities boosted notable misleading videos, suggesting that they played an influential role in amplifying baseless claims of voter fraud and electoral interference. We also saw that Qanon supporters and far-right communities paid close attention to events in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state in this year’s election.
A video posted online by a right-wing activist on November 3 claimed to show a poll watcher being turned away at a polling station in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia City Commissioners Office later told Reuters that the incident was investigated and it was an “honest mistake”. Yet the video was shared 28,125 times among hate communities on Election Day. A similar video, claiming that “certified Republican poll watchers” were denied entry to a Philadelphia voting center by a “Democratic committeewoman” who was “wearing a Biden mask” was also shared 19,927 times.
Mike Roman, President Trump’s Director of Election Day Operations, posted photos from a voting center in Philadelphia and claimed poll watchers were deliberately being kept away from counting tables by Democratic officials. This tweet was shared 16,204 times on Election Day. Throughout the day, hate communities promoted an online portal, run by the Trump campaign, where voters could submit “election issues” a total of 3,352 times.
This activity demonstrates how hate communities sought to interfere in the election and undermine democracy by amplifying isolated, misleading incidents to push the narrative that the entire voting process was corrupted and fraudulent, despite no evidence supporting this. Similar tactics were used by right-wing activists who promoted disinformation about voter fraud and Black Lives Matters in the weeks leading up to the election, as ISD’s joint investigation with Politico reported.
Post-Election Day: Hate Communities Boost ‘Stop the Steal’ Movement and Push Claims of Voter Fraud
In the period immediately following Election Day, hate communities heavily promoted sites and online posts linked to the Stop the Steal movement, a collection of pro-Trump activists and supporters who allege that the vote counting process was rigged against the president. A Facebook group with the same name became a hive for voter fraud disinformation and calls for violence, and its creation and removal was widely documented. At least 20 other Facebook groups with the same name and a combined membership of over 320,000 people have been created on the platform, as research carried out by ISD for Politico found.
Throughout election week, ISD charted the growth of the conversation around voter fraud across social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and 4Chan). From an average of 200,000 posts online per day leading up to Election Day, November 3 saw 400,000 tweets on the subject. On November 5 alone, the conversation peaked at two million posts in a single day. Of the top five most popular tweets pushing voter fraud narratives in the days after the election, tweets from President Trump and his son, Donald Jr, made up three of these posts.
Focusing on our observed hate communities, we saw the mass-sharing of a website that was created by a pro-Trump activist and served as a hub with details about over 60 Stop the Steal protests across the US. Links to the site were shared just over 7,500 times, particularly among QAnon, anti-Latinx and anti-Muslim communities online. During election week, online platforms were commonly used by these groups to organise potential offline activity, such as protests and even calls for violent activity..
Hate communities also promoted efforts to identify voter fraud in Arizona, another key battleground state. One link to a site where voters could check the status of their ballot in Arizona was shared 146,707 times following Election Day. Users were encouraged to “check if your ballot was tossed” as part of a campaign to prove that voter fraud occurred in the state. A similar site for voters in Michigan was shared among hate communities, with the same intent, while tweets claiming dead people were used to cast fraudulent votes for the Democrats trended as well. One tweet, shared 10,025 times, claimed a man who died in 1984 “voted via absentee ballot” in Michigan. Politifact reported that Michigan officials confirmed no ballot was cast on behalf of the dead voter.
Spanish Language Conspiracies Targeting Biden Promoted Among Anti-Latinx Communities
In the week leading up to the election on November 3, our analysis captured a total of 1,746 posts, comments and tweets by hate actors across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit discussing the Latinx community. These originated from anti-Latinx communities (13%), far-right communities (14%) and QAnon communities (16%).
Among the most-shared links during this period was a Facebook post that claimed Joe Biden “loves drug runners” and is friends with “two of Mexico’s most corrupt former presidents”, Felipe Calderón and Carlos Salinas de Gotari. Posts online identified by the ISD also shared photos of Biden with the two former presidents and pushed the claim that Biden was an “accomplice in drug trafficking” and an “accomplice in arms trafficking” between unspecified groups in the two countries.
The Facebook post promoted among our observed communities also linked to a Spanish language YouTube video in which the host reads an article claiming to show emails from Hunter Biden sent to a Mexican businessman. These emails were first published by National Pulse, a fringe right-wing news site that was one of the main voices in promoting Hunter Biden conspiracies in recent weeks. The video has been viewed 300,000 times.
In addition, an article from a Spanish language site promoting a conspiracy about a diary purportedly belonging to Ashley Biden, the President-elect’s daughter, was shared 2,233 times across Twitter and Facebook, including in at least three Spanish language pro-Trump groups like Cubanos for Trump 2020, Trump Para Hispanos (Translation: Trump For Hispanics) and Sin miedo con Donald Trump (Translation: Without fear with Donald Trump). Overall, anti-Biden conspiracy theories and disinformation continued to thrive in Spanish language online communities through election week.