An online movement has these Trump supporters convinced the election was stolen
the capital of Pennsylvania — the state that ultimately tipped the election in favor of President-elect Joe Biden — supporters of President Donald Trump gathered to protest the election result this weekend.
The past four years in America have been an education in how grievances and misinformation on social media don’t just stay online — they spill out onto the streets, can manifest as violence, and, as seen in Harrisburg, this weekend, be used in attempts to undermine the bedrock of American democracy: free and fair elections
Trump supporters here gathered under the banner “Stop the Steal,” convinced the election had been stolen.
One woman told me she had seen so much “evidence” that the election had been rigged she would support a total re-vote
“When you have video footage of people taking bags of ballots and showing that they are for Donald Trump and lighting them on fire,” she said, “there’s a problem.”
But the video she cited as evidence of a rigged American election is not real.
It has been circulating on social media for days, even being retweeted by Eric Trump, the President’s son, but the video does not show Trump ballots being burned, as some have claimed.
Election officials in Virginia, where the papers that looked like ballots appeared to be from, have explained that what you see in the video are sample ballots. They have been trying to correct the viral misinformation for days.
“Note the absence of the bar code markings that are on all official ballots. The ballots in the video were sample ballots,” the City of Virginia Beach said in press release last week.
Trump supporters’ use of false information in this way is not unique; it is not a one-off.
Other protesters I spoke to in Harrisburg cited a sudden change in an online result map in favor of Biden on election night in Michigan as evidence that something had gone awry. Trump had amplified that claim himself on his Twitter account. But that too has been shown to be misinformation (a thorough debunk here). Twitter labeled Trump’s post with a message that read “Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading”
The President himself, his allies, and Fox News personalities, embrace misinformation. Sometimes Trump will retweet a post with false claims that is already going viral. At other times, Trump will create his own misinformation by posting false claims. Trump and his followers have used misinformation as “evidence” to prove the validity of more misinformation.
Social media exacerbates the problem — serving as an engine for misinformation to spread.
Over the past week, Twitter, and to a lesser extent Facebook, have taken aggressive steps to label as misinformation false posts from the President as he seeks to undermine the integrity of the election.