What is “Stop the Steal” Movement?
Stop the Steal movement is a far-right and conservative campaign and protest movement in the United States assisting conspiracy theories that dishonestly postulates that universal electoral fraud happened during the presidential election of 2020 to refuse incumbent President Donald Trump’s triumph over former vice president Joe Biden. Trump and his supporter have claimed that Donald Trump is the winner of the election without having any proof and also claimed that large-scale vote counting fraud has taken place in several swing states. The Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Decision Desk HQ, NBC News, The New York Times, and Fox News predicted Biden as the president-elect.
It excelled the 270 Electoral College votes needed to assert victory. According to the State election officials of the New York Times, neither the officials found evidence of particular voting fraud nor the Justice department. Besides, dozen of lawsuits that were filed by Trump and his supporters to challenge voting results in several states also got failed.
“Stop the Steal” campaign was created by Republican political operative Roger Stone in 2016, foreseeing that future election losses could also be depicted as stolen by alleged fraud. To support the campaign, a Facebook group with the same name was created during the counting of votes in 2020 by the co-founder of the pro-Trump group “Women for America First” and an activist of the Tea Party Movement, Amy Kremer, but the group was removed by Facebook group on November 5, explaining it as “organized around the delegitimization of the election process.”
It was reported that 1,000 new members were added every 10 seconds with 360,000 followers before Facebook removed it. On June 11, 2021, Facebook declared that it would remove the content that contained the phrase “stop the steal” from Facebook and Instagram. Along with that, Twitter also did a big announcement on the next day of the announcement made by Facebook that it had suspended 70,000 accounts that it said: “share harmful QAnon-associated content at scale.”
Since then, all the “Stop the Steal” groups have been removed by Facebook moderators over their discussions that promote extreme violence, urge to violence, and other threats, which is against the community standard of Facebook. A social media analytics firm named Counteraction provided ProPublica and Washington post with an inspection of Facebook group and posts, and as a result, around 655,000 election post was identified as delegitimization posts.
Right-Wing extremists founded many “Stop the Steal” when Trump started supporting by posting Tweets on Twitter motivating his supporters to “Stop the Count.” There were many unorganized “Stop the Steal” groups that protested in various cities like Washington, D.C.; Detroit, Michigan; Mich Lansing, Michigan; Las Vegas, Nevada; Madison, Wisconsin; Atlanta, Georgia; and Columbus, Ohio. These protests included members of extremist groups such as Three Percenters, Proud Boys, and Oath Keepers, which CNN reported was an illustration of “the thinning of a line between the mainstream right and far-right extremists.”
On 7th December 2020, “Stop the Steal” protestors gathered outside the private home of Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to yell indecency and chant threatening speech into bullhorns. President-elect Joe Biden had already won Michigan by 154,000 votes, and it had been officially certified by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers in November.
Conspiracy Theories Over Stolen Election
Various conspiracy theories were actively encouraged, such as the assertion that billionaire liberal donor George Soros “stole the election.” Another assertion was Italygate, a QAnon-adjacent theory originating from a fake news website, which asserted that the election was contrived in favor of Biden by the U.S. Embassy in Rome, with the help of using satellites and military technology to remotely switch votes from Trump to Biden. However, there was no evidence to hold up this. Republican congressman Scotty Perry texted a link to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows a YouTube video making the allegation.
The New York Times later reported that Meadows emailed the video to the Department of Justice looking for an investigation during the last week of Trump in office. The conspiracy theory which was emerged had many origins which were supported by Trump and other individuals, and it was heavily pushed and enlarged by far-right news organizations such as One America News Network (OANN), Newsmax, and The Gateway Pundit, as well as by Sean Hannity and some other Fox News observers.
Facebook and other important social network attempt to restrict groups that circulated false election assertions led to a hike in the popularity of Parler, a right-leaning alternative social networking site that has attracted supporters of Stop the Steal. Parler eventually went offline after Amazon Web Services took back its support for the app. Here are some conspiracy theories which were made.
- Dominion voting machines did not change or delete votes for Trump.
This was one of the most Damning fraud assertions for Trump and QAnon supporters Harry Formanek and Traci Specht. They believed that Dominion voting machines used in some states were already planned to either make votes in favor of Mr. Biden or delete votes for Mr. Trump- a story spread by Mr. Trump and his lawyers.
“What happened was there was 6,000 total votes that flipped, that were Trump’s votes that flipped to Biden that they discovered,” Formanek said, repeating a misapprehension about the vote count in Michigan. “And they said, ‘oh, it’s a glitch,’ but then they saw in other states this same anomaly happened. And it always happened against Trump.”
Formanek seemed to be indicating to Antrim County, Michigan, where an unofficial preliminary counting on election night depicted how Biden had won the county, which was not correct. Election officials stated that it was the outcome of human mistake that was quickly brought to the light and corrected.
- Sharpie markers did not refute Trump votes in Arizona.
This assertion was quickly denied by state election officials. “Sharpie markers are recommended by the manufacturer of Maricopa County’s vote tabulation machines as the preferred way to mark ballots for use in those machines,” Maricopa County said. “Ink from ballpoint pens can cause smudges in the machines and foul them, while Sharpie markets do not. … Even if bleed through should occur, there is no impact on any race.”
Maricopa County was charged for this alleged interference, but on December 9, a judge ruled that the complaints didn’t get any base to provide any sensible support for their “extraordinary claims.” Dominion also said that its voting machines had no issues with felt-tip markers.
“It really just seems to me to be a situation where it’s any port in the storm,” Freelon said of the claim, “where people are grabbing onto any possibility that there may have been malfeasance that resulted in Trump losing a particular state.”It was noted by Freelon this assertion, along with others, that would have impacted those voters who voted for Biden if it had any reality.
“All of the ballots that used Sharpies were counted, as they should’ve been,” he said. “There’s no evidence that Trump voters are disproportionate Sharpie users any more so than Biden voters. So, I’m not really sure exactly where they were going with that one.”
- No votes by dead people or people voted multiple times
Another assertion came into existence that people voted not only a single time but more than one time in the election, and besides, many fraudulent votes were also cast in the names of people who don’t exist in the world.
Trump also told his supporters to vote twice if they could. Formanek told CBS News he knows of people “that said they received four or five ballots in the mail.” But Freelon said there is “very, very little evidence of this” and that it is an old claim that comes in every election.
- Poll watchers were not allowed to observe
Another assertion was made that poll watchers were not permitted to observe, due to which some Trump supporters were manipulated, but it was declared false when Mr. Trump’s attorneys argued some aspects of this claim in court.
“These kinds of claims trade on people’s lack of familiarity with the vote counting process,” he said. “Things that are perfectly normal and happen in every election may look like, to the uninitiated viewer, as something irregular or problematic.”
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