For Trump supporters intent on finding it, proof of the president’s claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” is everywhere.
For some, it’s in the videos: the one in which a Colorado man claiming to be a poll worker, dressed in a yellow vest, rips up Trump ballots (it was a TikTok prank) or the trash bag of torn ballots found by a wedding party in an Oklahoma church (they were actually “spoiled ballots“) or the testimony from a Pennsylvania postal worker who claimed he was ordered to backdate ballots mailed after Election Day (he has since recanted and also denied recanting).
For others, the evidence of a so-called Democratic plot could be found in the numbers.
“Is it me, or do people not understand statistics?” asked one of the 1.3 million members in Nationwide Recount 2020, a private Facebook group, presenting an impassioned, if confusing, case for why mail-in ballots in swing states were favoring Biden.
“Benford’s Law,” a supporter commented, linking to an anonymous Twitter account that claimed in a series of tweets that a mathematical observation that the first digits of numbers are likely to be smaller somehow suggested widespread fraud by the Democrats.
Posts like these, discussing a dizzying array of false claims and conspiracy theories, have dominated social and ultraconservative media since the early morning after Election Day, when President Donald Trump prematurely and incorrectly declared himself the winner. As the votes continue to be counted and Joe Biden’s lead has increased (Biden was up by more than 5 million votes Wednesday), so has Trump’s insistence that the election was stolen from him.
And while no evidence of significant, widespread or even small-time voter fraud has been found, the years of groundwork laid by Trump and his supporters have blossomed into a flood of misleading — and importantly, fractured — claims of a rigged election.
An analysis of post-election conversations in social media, broadcast, traditional and online media by the intelligence platform Zignal Labs reported more than 4.6 million mentions of voter fraud in the week after Election Day.
The conversation centers on more than 20 distinct narratives making up an election fraud disinformation campaign, according to an analysis provided to NBC News by the Election Integrity Partnership, a coalition of researchers studying misinformation and the vote.
“Instead of evidence, we’re assaulted with a plethora of claims seeking to undermine faith in the election, ranging from confusing to clearly fabricated,” said Joe Bak-Coleman, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington who is tracking post-election disinformation as part of the Election Integrity Partnership. “Individually, none of these claims could stand up to a moment’s scrutiny, but collectively they’re deafening, urging the average citizen to give up and accept the ambiguity.”