Demonstrations across the country protesting alleged fraud in this week’s election have ties to major conservative activist groups and MAGA personalities affiliated with President Donald Trump, according to multiple misinformation researchers.
Many of these protests have been organized by prominent, well-funded pro-Trump groups such as Tea Party Patriots, Women for America First, Turning Point USA and Freedom Works USA, according to analyses from several research institutions.
One of the first avenues for organizing, a Facebook group called #StopTheSteal, was created by Amy Kremer, a longtime conservative activist with Tea Party roots and founder of the pro-Trump group Women for America First. The Facebook group collected more than 350,000 members in just over 24 hours before it was banned by the social media company for promoting violence
The group’s other administrators were even more prominent conservative activists with close ties to Steve Bannon, the former manager of Trump’s 2016 campaign and the ex-chair of the conservative news organization Breitbart, according to data collected by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank that tracks online extremism and misinformation.
The page’s rapid surge in membership was also helped by promotion from conservative activists and pro-Trump Facebook groups online. And for a group that existed for just over a day, it had an outsized, real-world impact….
Yet the affiliation between the #StopTheSteal groups and Trump’s camp show that this “spirit” is supported, encouraged and occasionally manufactured by Trump’s own allies. It’s part of Trumpworld’s broader attempt to gin up outrage about misleading and false claims of voter fraud, thus giving Trump a way to claim the public is behind him.
“This is definitely not just organic, up-from-the-grassroots disinformation,” said Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and Facebook’s former security chief. “There are professionals here who are pushing some of this stuff based upon exactly what is going on in the polls and in the real-world arguments over the election.”