Home featured Antifa falsehood tops list of misinformation after Capitol rampage.

Antifa falsehood tops list of misinformation after Capitol rampage.


Jan. 8, 2021, 2:03 p.m. ET

Jan. 8, 2021, 2:03 p.m. ET

Protesters surround the U.S. Capitol a rally by the president on Wednesday.
Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

Misinformation and distortions of the truth have run rampant on social media in the days after a mob of Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, disrupting lawmakers counting electoral votes to certify President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s win.

A conservative outlet, The Washington Times, claimed that facial recognition showed evidence that the mob was made up of members of antifa, a loose network of anti-fascist activists. The article has since been corrected. Other misleading and false articles and posts claimed that the mob’s work was a “setup” or an “inside job.” And still others said President Trump would soon declassify information on how the election was stolen.

The media insights company Zignal Labs compiled a list of the most popular false and misleading narratives on social media about Wednesday’s events, counting their mentions on cable television and social media and in print and online news outlets on Wednesday and Thursday. Here is the list.

The false narrative that antifa supporters were actually behind the unrest at the Capitol peaked at 66,122 mentions on Wednesday evening, according to Zignal’s data. Rep. Matt Gaetz even referenced the false Washington Times article as proof that the mob was “in fact members of the violent terrorist group antifa.”

On Thursday, The Washington Times published a new version of its article, reporting that it was actually “neo-Nazis and other extremists” who were identified in photos of the mob, after BuzzFeed News challenged the outlet’s reporting.

The idea that the mob’s work was an inside job spread widely on social media, even though there was no evidence to support the conspiracy theory. People said the setup had been planned by the “deep state,” which is shorthand for the conspiracy theory about Democratic elites secretly exercising political control over the public. The narrative peaked at 12,593 mentions from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, according to Zignal’s data.

The distorted idea that President Trump knew about the mob’s actions in advance and that people should “trust the plan” and “hold the line” was widespread especially among supporters of the conspiracy movement QAnon — which is based upon the false premise that the country is run by a Democrat-led cabal of pedophiles whom President Trump is bringing down.

A popular false narrative that people in the mob were simply “posing as MAGA” peaked early on Wednesday, before accusations specifically zeroed in on antifa.

Some supporters of the president pushed the falsehood that he would soon “declassify” information on how the election was stolen, in spite of overwhelming evidence — and a host of court rulings — that no widespread fraud was found in the election.

In some versions of the baseless rumor, people stated that this was the real reason that Mr. Trump’s opponents in Congress were calling on the president to be stripped of his power from office under the disability clause of the 25th Amendment.

Jan. 6, 2021, 9:00 p.m. ET

Jan. 6, 2021, 9:00 p.m. ET

A sign that was posted inside the Capitol after a pro-Trump mob broke in on Wednesday.
Credit…Jon Cherry/Getty Images

In thousands of posts on Twitter and Facebook, members of the far right pushed the unfounded claim that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, carrying Trump flags and halting Congress’s counting of electoral votes, was made up of liberal activists posing as a pro-Trump community to give it a bad name.

Several posts shared by thousands of people held up photographs as evidence that antifa supporters were behind the unrest. But those images did not, in fact, show antifa involvement. Instead, some of the photographs, and the information contained in them, suggested ties to far right movements.

Even President Trump acknowledged that the people who supported him — not liberal activists — had invaded the Capitol. At one point on Wednesday he told the mob that “we love you.”

Among the most popular figures pushing the conspiracy theory were the commentator Candace Owens, the Georgia lawyer L. Lin Wood and Juanita Broaddrick, a nursing home administrator who in 1999 publicly accused President Bill Clinton of raping her in 1978. Other prominent figures spreading the rumor included Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas; Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential candidate; and Representative Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican.


The rumor that supporters of the antifa movement — a loosely organized collective of antifascist activists — had posed as members of the far right on Wednesday was shared more than 150,000 times on Twitter and thousands of times more on Facebook, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Altogether, the accounts pushing the rumor had tens of millions of followers.

“Indisputable photographic evidence that antifa violently broke into Congress today to inflict harm & do damage,” Mr. Wood posted on Twitter. “NOT @realDonaldTrump supporters.”

The “photographic evidence” that Mr. Wood pointed to in his post included a link to phillyantifa.org, where the photo of a bearded man involved in the mob was hosted. But that particular page exposed photos of known individuals in the neo-Nazi movement.

Another popular post, shared at least 39,000 times on Twitter, claimed without evidence that a “former FBI agent on the ground at U.S. Capitol just texted me and confirmed at least 1 ‘bus load’ of Antifa thugs infiltrated the peaceful Trump demonstrators.”


Untrue claims that “busloads” or “planeloads” of antifascist activists infiltrated protests are a common refrain from the far right.

In response to the baseless assertion, a Twitter user said, “Of course they did.” The user attached photos of a man wearing a horned helmet with his face painted in an American flag design as an apparent example of an antifa supporter.

The man was not an antifa supporter. Instead, he is a longtime QAnon supporter who has been a fixture at Arizona right-wing political rallies in recent months, according to The Arizona Republic.

Ben Decker and Jacob Silver contributed research.

Jan. 4, 2021, 10:33 p.m. ET

Jan. 4, 2021, 10:33 p.m. ET

Gabriel Sterling, a top election official in Georgia, responded to President Trump’s false claims at a news conference in Atlanta on Monday.
Credit…Mike Segar/Reuters

In a searing news conference on Monday, Gabriel Sterling, a top election official in Georgia, systematically debunked President Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. Again.

“The reason I’m having to stand here today is because there are people in positions of authority and respect who have said their votes didn’t count, and it’s not true,” said Mr. Sterling, a Republican who last month condemned the president’s failure to denounce threats against election officials, and who was tasked on Monday with responding to the news of a phone call in which Mr. Trump pressured Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to “find” enough votes to change the outcome of the presidential race.

“It’s anti-disinformation Monday,” Mr. Sterling said. “It’s whack-a-mole again, it’s Groundhog Day again, and I’m going to talk about things that I’ve talked about repeatedly for two months. I’m going to do it again one last time. I hope.”

Here is a rundown of the false claims about Georgia’s vote-counting that Mr. Trump and his lawyers made on the call and in other venues, and Mr. Sterling’s explanations of what actually happened.

TRUMP’S CLAIM: That, amid the disruption caused by a broken water main at a vote-counting center in Fulton County, election workers brought in “suitcases or trunks” of ballots.

STERLING’S EXPLANATION: Late in the evening, after the water main break had been fixed, election workers prepared to go home for the night and followed standard procedures to store ballots securely: placing them in containers and affixing numbered seals. But when Mr. Raffensperger found out that they were closing up shop, he ordered them to continue counting through the night — so the workers retrieved the containers and resumed counting ballots.

All of this is on video footage that the secretary of state’s office posted publicly.

“This is what’s really frustrating: The president’s legal team had the entire tape,” Mr. Sterling said. “They watched the entire tape. They intentionally misled the State Senate, the voters and the people of the United States about this.”

TRUMP’S CLAIM: That workers scanned some batches of ballots multiple times.

STERLING’S EXPLANATION: When a scanning machine encounters a problem, it stops, but a few ballots get through while it’s stopping. When that happens, workers take the ballots and scan them again so they’re counted properly. This is standard procedure, and the ballots aren’t counted twice — and if they were, the hand recount Georgia conducted would have shown it.

“That audit showed that there was no problem with the machine scanning,” Mr. Sterling said. “If somebody took a stack of ballots and scanned them multiple times, you would have a lot of votes with no corresponding ballots.”

TRUMP’S CLAIM: That tens of thousands of ineligible voters cast ballots.

STERLING’S EXPLANATION: The actual number of ballots cast by ineligible voters is minuscule, and nowhere near enough to change the outcome of the election.

Mr. Sterling also addressed more specific claims about ineligible voters:

  • Mr. Trump said that thousands of people voted despite not being registered to vote. This is impossible, Mr. Sterling said: “You can’t do it. There cannot be a ballot issued to you, there’s no way to tie it back to you, there’s nowhere for them to have a name to correspond back to unless they’re registered voters. So that number is zero.”

  • Mr. Trump said that thousands of voters died before the election. Mr. Sterling said the secretary of state’s office had found only two who might fit that description.

  • Mr. Trump said that hundreds of people voted using P.O. boxes rather than a residential address. Mr. Sterling said that the secretary of state’s office was still investigating, but that everyone it had examined so far had, in fact, used a proper residential address — just one for a multifamily residence or apartment building.

  • Mr. Trump’s campaign said that many felons voted. In reality, using records from the state’s corrections and probation departments, the secretary of state’s office identified only 74 people who might fit that category — and Mr. Sterling said the final number would be even lower once the office completed its investigation, because in many cases, the person might have had their voting rights reinstated after completing a sentence or might simply have the same name as a felon.

  • Mr. Trump’s campaign said that tens of thousands of people younger than 18 voted. “The actual number is zero,” Mr. Sterling said, “and the reason we know that is because the dates are on the voter registration. There are four cases — four — where people requested their absentee ballot before they turned 18, but they turned 18 by Election Day. That means that is a legally cast ballot.”

  • Mr. Trump’s campaign said that hundreds of voters cast ballots in two states. Mr. Sterling said that officials were still investigating, but that if any such cases were confirmed, it would be “handfuls,” and nowhere near enough to change the outcome.

TRUMP’S CLAIM: That machines flipped votes, counting Trump ballots as Biden ones.

STERLING’S EXPLANATION: If this had happened, Mr. Sterling said, the hand recount would have shown it, and it did not show anything of the sort.

Discussing allegations of hacking, he added that ballot machines and scanners aren’t connected to the internet. “Neither one has modems,” Mr. Sterling said. “It’s very hard to hack things without modems.”

TRUMP’S CLAIM: That election officials did not properly verify signatures for mail-in ballots.

STERLING’S EXPLANATION: The secretary of state’s office brought in signature experts, who examined more than 15,000 mail-in ballot envelopes. They found potential problems with only two, and upon investigation, both ballots turned out to be legitimate.

TRUMP’S CLAIM: That, compared with previous election cycles, Georgia rejected a suspiciously low number of mail-in ballots.

STERLING’S EXPLANATION: The decrease in rejections is attributable to a recently passed law that gives Georgians a chance to correct problems, such as a rejected signature, with their ballots. Both parties had teams roaming the state and contacting voters whose ballots were at risk of rejection, but Mr. Sterling said the Democrats were simply more prepared for the task.

TRUMP’S CLAIM: That election officials shredded ballots.

STERLING’S EXPLANATION: “There is no shredding of ballots going on,” Mr. Sterling said with clear annoyance. “That’s not real. It’s not happening.”

Workers did shred secrecy envelopes: the blank envelopes that protect the privacy of a voter’s absentee ballot and go inside an outer envelope. It’s the outer envelope that voters have to sign, and election officials have kept those outer envelopes as required by law. The secrecy envelopes, however, “have no evidentiary value,” Mr. Sterling said, because by definition they have no identifying information on them.

TRUMP’S CLAIM: That employees of Dominion Voting Systems “moved the inner parts” of voting machines “and replaced them with other parts.”

STERLING’S EXPLANATION: “No one is changing parts or pieces out of Dominion voting machines. That’s not real. I don’t even know what that means.”

TRUMP’S CLAIM: That officials improperly counted “pristine” ballots — meaning ballots that weren’t folded, indicating that they hadn’t arrived in an envelope.

STERLING’S EXPLANATION: “Pristine” ballots aren’t unusual, Mr. Sterling said. For instance, many military and overseas voters receive electronic ballots that they print out, complete and mail back. But these printed ballots aren’t the right size for scanners, so election workers have a standard process for transferring the votes to scannable ballots. A ballot that gets damaged and can’t be scanned may be transferred in the same way.

TRUMP’S CLAIM: That Mr. Raffensperger is compromised because he has a brother who works for a Chinese technology company. (Mr. Trump was echoing a conspiracy theory about an unrelated man who happens to be named Ron Raffensperger.)

STERLING’S EXPLANATION: Mr. Raffensperger doesn’t have a brother named Ron.

Jan. 3, 2021, 8:34 p.m. ET

Jan. 3, 2021, 8:34 p.m. ET

Fact Check

President Trump has made a litany of false claims about election results in Georgia.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump, in an hourlong telephone call with Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, repeated a number of false and misleading claims about election results in the state that have been circulating on social media. Here’s a fact check.

What Mr. Trump Said

“Then it was stuffed with votes. They weren’t in an official voter box, they were in what looked to be suitcases or trunks, suitcases but they weren’t in voter boxes. The minimum number it could be because we watched it and they watched it certified in slow motion instant replay if you can believe it, but it had slow motion and it was magnified many times over, and the minimum it was 18,000 ballots, all for Biden.”

False. Mr. Trump was most likely referring to debunked claims that a water leak at a vote counting location in Fulton County forced an evacuation and made it possible for trunks full of ballots to be rolled in. Election officials have said and surveillance videos show that this did not happen.

A water leak caused a delay for about two hours in vote counting at the State Farm Arena, but no ballots or equipment were damaged. Georgia’s chief election investigator, Frances Watson, testified that a “review of the entire security footage revealed that there were no mystery ballots that were brought in from an unknown location and hidden under tables.”

Throughout the phone call, Mr. Trump also repeatedly suggested that an election worker seen in the surveillance videos “stuffed the boxes” and “they thought she’d be in jail” — referring to a baseless conspiracy theory promoted on social media.

[Read more about the voting in Georgia so far.]

What Mr. Trump Said

“There were no poll watchers there. There were no Democrats or Republicans. There was no security there.”

This is misleading. Election observers and journalists were present at State Farm Arena when the water leak occurred. They were not asked to leave, Ms. Watson said, but simply “left on their own” when they saw one group of workers, who had completed their task, leave.

What Mr. Trump Said

“So dead people voted. And I think the number is close to 5,000 people.”

False. The actual number was two, Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, told the president in the call.

What Mr. Trump Said

“You had out-of-state voters — they voted in Georgia but they were from out of state — of 4,925.”

This is misleading. Ryan Germany, the chief counsel for Mr. Raffensperger’s office, refuted this description in the call.

“Everyone we’ve been through are people that lived in Georgia, moved to a different state, but then moved back to Georgia legitimately,” he said. “They moved back in years ago. This was not like something just before the election. So there’s something about that data that, it’s just not accurate.”

What Mr. Trump Said

“In Fulton County and other areas — and this may or may not be true, because this just came up this morning — that they are burning their ballots, that they are shredding ballots, shredding ballots and removing equipment. They are changing the equipment on the Dominion machines, and you know that’s not legal.”

False. Mr. Trump was likely referring to images of Fulton County ballots that circulated on social media and posted by a supporter, Patrick Byrne, the former chief executive of Overstock.

The photos showed piles of ballots that were visibly not filled out and wrapped in plastic. Mr. Byrne characterized the ballots as “counterfeit” and said they were later shredded.

But those images were simply of emergency backup ballots, said Gabriel Sterling, a Republican official who is the voting system implementation manager in Georgia. State law requires counties to prepare additional paper ballots in case voting machines cannot be used.

Dominion Voting Systems, which has been the subject of countless conspiracy theories and false rumors, did not remove any machinery from Fulton County, Mr. Germany told the president.

What Mr. Trump Said

“In Detroit, we had 139 percent of the people voted. That’s not too good. In Pennsylvania, they had well over 200,000 more votes than they had people voting.”

False. About 51 percent of registered voters and 38 percent of the entire population cast a ballot in Detroit.

The figure for Pennsylvania was a reference to faulty analysis conducted by state Republican lawmakers. The analysis relied on a voter registration database that Pennsylvania’s Department of State said was incomplete as a few counties — including Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties, the two largest in the state — had yet to fully upload their data. The department called the analysis “obvious misinformation.”

What Mr. Trump Said

“She got you to sign a totally unconstitutional agreement, which is a disastrous agreement. You can’t check signatures. I can’t imagine you’re allowed to do harvesting, I guess, in that agreement.”

False. This was an inaccurate reference to a settlement between Georgia and the Democratic Party. Under the March settlement, officials must notify voters whose signatures were rejected within three business days and give them the chance to correct issues. It does not bar officials from verifying signatures and does not allow “harvesting,” or collecting and dropping off ballots in bulk.

“Harvesting is still illegal in the state of Georgia. And that settlement agreement did not change that one iota,” Mr. Raffensperger said in the call.

Curious about the accuracy of a claim? Email factcheck@nytimes.com.

Dec. 23, 2020, 2:36 p.m. ET

Dec. 23, 2020, 2:36 p.m. ET

Shortly after the November election, the Trump campaign circulated on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as its website, the names of seven dead Americans in the battleground states of Georgia and Pennsylvania. The dead people were used to cast votes in last month’s election, the campaign claimed, pointing to the incidents as evidence of widespread voter fraud that enabled President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.

Local officials have debunked several of the dead-voter claims, and there remains no evidence of widespread voter fraud. But now, Pennsylvania officials say one of the names held up by the Trump campaign was used to cast a vote in the election.

Here’s the catch: Authorities say the fraudulent vote was cast for Mr. Trump.

This week, Jack Stollsteimer, the district attorney of Delaware County, accused Bruce Bartman of Marple Township, Pa., of illegally voting in place of his deceased mother in the general election. In addition to his mother, Mr. Bartman registered his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Weihman, who died in 2019, as a voter, according to the district attorney’s office, but is not accused of voting for her. He also cast a ballot under his own name.

“This is the only known case of a ‘dead person’ voting in our county, conspiracy theories notwithstanding,” Mr. Stollsteimer said in a statement. “The prompt prosecution of this case shows that law enforcement will continue to uphold our election laws whenever presented with actual evidence of fraud and that we will continue to investigate every allegation that comes our way.”

Samuel Stretton, a lawyer for Mr. Bartman, said: “He’s admitted everything. He’s cooperated.” Mr. Stretton added that he was negotiating a guilty plea, and that Mr. Bartman had no criminal record.

“He’s a good man,” Mr. Stretton said. “He did something very stupid under some misguided theory that this was his form of protest.”

In an interview with The New York Times in November after the Trump campaign first made its claims, Mr. Bartman said he did not recall seeing a mail-in ballot for his mother. “Oh, no, no, I haven’t gotten anything,” he said. “Occasionally I would get some junk mail for her. But not in several years.”

He added that he did not hear of the Trump campaign’s allegation because he did not use social media much and only infrequently logged on to Facebook to see pictures of his grandchildren.

Asked whether he knew why a vote for his mother would have been recorded despite her having passed away, he said the state’s governor, Tom Wolf, “doesn’t know anything or what’s going on in the city of Philadelphia, or the surrounding counties in the middle part of the state.”

Some of the stuff that has gone on in Philadelphia is just atrocious,” Mr. Bartman added.

Mr. Stretton, his lawyer, said, “He was wrong in saying that, he admits he was wrong, and since he was approached by the detectives, he has cooperated and told the truth.”

The claim that a vote was fraudulently cast using Elizabeth Bartman’s name and that it was emblematic of systemic voter fraud helping Mr. Biden spread widely online. On Facebook, articles with the claim from the conservative websites ZeroHedge and The Epoch Times were shared 1,800 times and reached up to 61 million followers, according to data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned social media analytics tool.

Dec. 18, 2020, 6:15 p.m. ET

Dec. 18, 2020, 6:15 p.m. ET

Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, who is fighting to keep her seat in a runoff election, has called her Democratic challenger a radical liberal.
Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Senator Kelly Loeffler’s fervid campaign against her Democratic challenger in Georgia, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, has employed a new deceptive tactic, casting Mr. Warnock, a Baptist preacher, as un-American by falsely attributing a controversial comment to him that was made by the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

Her attack has been bolstered by a multimillion-dollar ad buy promoting a fallacious video of Mr. Warnock that uses the same out-of-context footage.

In a news release distributed on Friday, Ms. Loeffler’s campaign linked to a 2014 flyer showing that Mr. Warnock’s church, Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta, had hosted Mr. Wright, a controversial Chicago pastor known for his fiery rhetoric.

“Warnock has a long history of praising Wright,” Ms. Loeffler’s release said, “calling him a prophet and celebrating his infamous ‘God damn America’ speech days after it was delivered. And Warnock himself has repeatedly said ‘God damn America’ in his sermons.”

Yet Mr. Warnock has uttered that phrase only in instances when he was referring to Mr. Wright’s speech, not to endorse that sentiment himself.

Mr. Wright, who was once Barack Obama’s pastor, became a lightning rod in the 2008 presidential campaign as video clips of his incendiary language surfaced, and Mr. Obama broke ties with him that year before securing the Democratic nomination. In Mr. Wright’s sermon that included the words “God damn America,” he was criticizing the United States for its history of mistreatment of minority groups, including its enslavement of Africans.

But in Mr. Warnock’s speeches, including one he gave at the Chautauqua Institution in New York, he had quoted the phrase as part of an academic discussion of Mr. Wright’s speech that explained how the phrase had been excerpted from the speech without context and “looped to the point of ad nauseam” to criticize Mr. Wright.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Ms. Loeffler’s news release attacking Mr. Warnock followed a Facebook ad buy paid for by American Crossroads, a super PAC that supports Republican candidates and is believed to be spending as much as $35 million to keep Ms. Loeffler in office. The ads also lift excerpts from Mr. Warnock’s Chautauqua speech as evidence that he had echoed Mr. Wright’s statement.

In the runoff campaign for one of Georgia’s two Senate seats, Ms. Loeffler has tried to paint Mr. Warnock as a “radical liberal” and has also accused him of supporting the idea of defunding the police, which he denies. The Loeffler campaign, in an ad in November, had also said Mr. Warnock supported Mr. Wright’s sentiments.

In reality, Mr. Warnock has said that he supported Mr. Wright in the same way he celebrated the “truth-telling tradition of the Black church,” which he said makes people uncomfortable.

Ms. Loeffler’s latest attack against Mr. Warnock follows a controversy that emerged last week after she was photographed at a campaign appearance in Dawsonville, Ga., with a former Ku Klux Klan member, Chester Doles. After the photograph circulated online, Ms. Loeffler’s campaign said she did not know who Mr. Doles was. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that there was no evidence to suggest that Ms. Loeffler knew him.)

The Loeffler campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its latest attacks on Mr. Warnock.

Michael J. Brewer, a spokesman for Mr. Warnock, called the latest attack ads “another lowest of the low in Kelly Loeffler and her allies’ efforts to divide and mislead Georgians for their own political gains,” adding that the clips showing Mr. Warnock had been “pulled from academic discussions.”

Dec. 18, 2020, 6:00 a.m. ET

Dec. 18, 2020, 6:00 a.m. ET

“Even after the ban, personal Facebook profiles — many with large followings — continue to discuss and promote the conspiracy on the platform,” a new report says.
Credit…Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

QAnon “superspreaders” have continued to be active on Facebook, even after the company banned the conspiracy movement from its platform two months ago, according to a report released on Friday.

The report, which identified people who acted as superspreaders of the QAnon conspiracy theory, found that videos and other content posted by the accounts were continuing to rack up likes, comments and shares.

“Even after the ban, personal Facebook profiles — many with large followings — continue to discuss and promote the conspiracy on the platform,” said the report, published by the think tank the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the nonpartisan news-rating organization NewsGuard. The superspreaders, it said, “were found to be a key link in the conspiracy chain.”

QAnon, a vast conspiracy theory that falsely claims that a satanic cabal runs the world, began in 2017. It gained its largest audience during the pandemic.

One of the superspreaders was Larry Cook, an anti-vaccination activist who started sharing QAnon conspiracies earlier this year, according to the report. In the month after the ban, Mr. Cook continued to make and share videos that included QAnon explainers for newcomers and claims that the government was running secret detention camps. Though Mr. Cook was banned by Facebook in mid-November, he still has an account on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

Other accounts that remained active on Facebook included those run by yoga and wellness coaches who share QAnon content, like false claims tying the Covid-19 vaccines to a vast government conspiracy.

“Since August, we’ve removed over 1,700 pages and 5,600 groups related to QAnon and disabled the profiles that ran them,” said Facebook spokeswoman Sarah Pollack. She said the company also redirected people searching for QAnon to credible resources such as the Global Network on Extremism and Technology.

The report, which studied the growth of QAnon on Facebook since the start of the pandemic, found that the movement had embedded itself into the social network’s fabric and was proving impossible to fully remove.

The recent, international spread of QAnon continues, the report said. Three of the 10 most active communities posting QAnon content on Facebook were German-language groups. Fifteen languages were represented in the posts by QAnon followers on Facebook.

One international superspreader, for example, uploaded a video from an American QAnon believer that was narrated in Spanish. The video has been watched more than 786,000 times since April.

Another superspreader account linked to a Brazilian national has uploaded videos viewed tens of thousands of times. Yet another video falsely tied the Hollywood celebrities Sandra Bullock and Ellen DeGeneres to QAnon. It has been viewed over 130,000 times since July.

There are 10 ingredients in Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccines. Contrary to several conspiracy theories circulating online, a tracking microchip planted by the government to surveil the movements of Americans is not among them.

For months, widely shared videos and viral posts on social media have baselessly claimed that such technologies could find their way into syringes delivering shots. None of the rumors are true.

With millions of doses of Pfizer’s newly authorized vaccine getting distributed nationwide, the rumors have resurfaced, prompting the pharmaceutical company to publicize what actually is in its immunizing recipe.

In the vaccine itself, there’s one active ingredient: a molecule called messenger RNA, or mRNA, which contains genetic instructions for a coronavirus protein called spike. Once injected, the mRNA will instruct human cells to manufacture spike, exposing the immune system to a highly recognizable feature of the virus. The idea is to help the body learn one of the virus’s most distinguishing traits, so that the virus will be recognized and rapidly quashed if it tries to establish an infection.

The mRNA rapidly degrades, leaving no trace in the body. All that’s left behind is a molecular memory of the virus — the intended goal of any vaccine.

Pfizer’s vaccine also contains nine other ingredients. Four of them are lipids with impossibly complex chemical names: ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis (ALC-3015); (2- hexyldecanoate),2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide (ALC-0159); 1,2-distearoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine (DPSC); and cholesterol.

These lipids come together to form a greasy, protective bubble around the mRNA, which is naturally very fragile and would be chopped to bits if injected directly into the body. Swaddled in an oily sphere, the genetic instructions have a better shot of finding their way into cells.

The vaccine also includes sucrose, or sugar, which keeps the nanoparticles from clumping up when they’re frozen in storage.

The vaccine also contains four salts: potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, basic sodium phosphate dihydrate and sodium chloride. If that last ingredient looks familiar, it should: It’s table salt.

These common chemicals are found in a variety of treatments and vaccines that have long been in use. The salts in the vaccine help match its contents to the environment of the human body, which contains its own mix of natural salts.

Jerica Pitts, Pfizer’s director of global media relations, also notes that the vaccine is diluted with water and salt before injection, another step to ensure that the balance of salts in the mix is just right.

None of these ingredients contain or resemble microchips.

Dec. 16, 2020, 8:17 p.m. ET

Dec. 16, 2020, 8:17 p.m. ET

Facebook confirmed that it has in the past few days rolled back a change that lifted news from authoritative outlets over hyperpartisan sources after November’s election, signaling a return to normalcy for the social network.

The change involved boosting the weight that Facebook’s news feed algorithm assigned to an internal publisher quality score known as “news ecosystem quality,” or N.E.Q. It was implemented several days after the election as part of Facebook’s emergency “break glass” plan to combat misinformation during the critical postelection period, while votes were still being counted.

The change resulted in an increase in Facebook traffic for mainstream news publishers including CNN, NPR and The New York Times, while partisan sites like Breitbart and Occupy Democrats saw their numbers fall. After the election, some Facebook employees asked at a company meeting whether the “nicer news feed” could stay, according to several people who attended.

But they were told that the “break glass” measures, including the N.E.Q. change, were never supposed to be permanent.

“This was a temporary change we made to help limit the spread of inaccurate claims about the election,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. “We’re still ensuring that people see authoritative and informative news on Facebook, especially during major news cycles and around important global topics like elections, Covid-19 and climate change.”

Other measures Facebook has developed to combat political misinformation and hate speech have been scaled back or vetoed by executives in the past, either because they hurt Facebook’s usage numbers or because executives feared they would disproportionately harm right-wing publishers, several Facebook employees told The Times last month.

Dec. 16, 2020, 7:37 p.m. ET

Dec. 16, 2020, 7:37 p.m. ET

Senator Ron Johnson has previously used his committee to investigate Hunter Biden and to elevate fringe theories about the pandemic.
Credit…Pool photo by Greg Nash

Two days after the Electoral College confirmed President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, a Senate committee provided a platform on Wednesday for another round of specious legal arguments and falsehoods about widespread voter fraud that have been repeatedly rejected by courts across the country.

The hearing was the latest effort by the Republican chairman of the homeland security committee, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, to amplify the claims and concerns of President Trump. Mr. Johnson previously used his committee to investigate Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, and to elevate fringe theories about the coronavirus pandemic.

Though Mr. Johnson conceded in his opening remarks that fraudulent voting did not affect the outcome of the election, he said that “lax enforcement, denying effective bipartisan observation of the complete election process, and failure to be fully transparent or conduct reasonable audits has led to heightened suspicion.”

“The fraud happened. The election in many ways was stolen,” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said at one point.

Those claims are false. The Trump campaign has failed to provide evidence in a number of lawsuits that Republican observers were barred from witnessing vote tabulating. Recounts and postelection audits in several battleground states have either concluded and reconfirmed Mr. Biden’s victory, or are underway. There is no evidence that the election was “stolen.”

Witnesses called by Mr. Johnson included three men — two lawyers for Mr. Trump and a Pennsylvania state representative — who have unsuccessfully sought to overturn election results. They also included Ken Starr, who represented Mr. Trump during the impeachment hearing this year.

Even as several witnesses insisted there was proof of widespread fraud — and as their claims were echoed in viral posts on social media — Christopher C. Krebs, the former head of the government’s cybersecurity agency, testified that the election was the most secure in American history.

James Troupis, a lawyer for Mr. Trump in Wisconsin, claimed that 200,000 people had voted improperly in the state. He argued that accepting absentee ballots in Dane and Milwaukee Counties — two Democratic bastions — before Election Day violated state law, and that those votes should be thrown out.

But the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected the case on Monday, and a conservative justice said that one of Mr. Troupis’s four claims was “meritless” and that time had run out on the other three. Justices also noted during the trial that Mr. Troupis was not seeking to throw out ballots in other counties that used the same procedures but that Mr. Trump had won.

A Republican member of the state’s elections commission observed this month that the Trump campaign “has not made any claims of fraud in this election” but rather leveled “disputes in matters of law.”

Similarly, Mr. Trump’s campaign lawyer in Nevada used the hearing to rehash false claims and arguments rejected by courts in the state. The lawyer, Jesse Binnall, said that the campaign’s experts had identified “130,000 unique instances of voter fraud” in Nevada and that their evidence had “never been refuted, only ignored.”

A district court in Nevada rejected those claims and dismissed the lawsuit this month, and the Nevada Supreme Court upheld that decision last week.

The lower court said that it found “no credible or reliable evidence that the 2020 general election in Nevada was affected by fraud” and that the campaign’s expert testimony “was of little to no value.” Mr. Binnall and others on the legal team “did not prove under any standard of proof” their claims about double voting, deceased people voting, and noncitizens and nonresidents voting, the court wrote.

The state’s highest court, in upholding that decision, wrote that it asked the Trump campaign to identify findings from the district court that it took issue with, but “appellants have not pointed to any unsupported factual findings, and we have identified none.”

State Representative Francis Ryan of Pennsylvania also repeated a number of claims that appeared in Texas’ lawsuit seeking to toss out election results in Pennsylvania and other swing states. The Supreme Court rejected that lawsuit last week.

Mr. Ryan said that a data portal initially and erroneously listed 508,112 ballots counted in Philadelphia County despite only 432,873 ballots being issued to voters. He then acknowledged that the 500,000 figure was corrected later.

He also claimed that the state reported that 3.1 million mail-in ballots were sent out, but the number was 2.7 million “the day before the election.” Pennsylvania, in a filing responding to the lawsuit, noted that Mr. Ryan’s analysis was “fundamentally faulty” and that the 3.1 million figure included 2.7 million mail-in ballots and 400,000 absentee ballots.

Additionally, Mr. Ryan expressed skepticism that more than 1,500 voters reported being over 100 years old. But that figure includes dozens of instances where a birthday is entered as Jan. 1, 1900, as a placeholder. It is also consistent with reports from the census and the Centers for Disease for Control and Prevention on the number of people that age in Pennsylvania and the United States.

Mr. Starr separately argued that Pennsylvania “flagrantly violated” state law in expanding mail-in voting. A lawsuit making the same point was rejected by the state’s Supreme Court, which was then upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Johnson and Mr. Starr also cited Democratic officials who had previously raised concerns about election security to suggest that Republicans were being unfairly maligned in their efforts to cast light on the issue.

“I don’t recall the media or anyone else accusing these eight congressional Democrats of indulging in, quote, quackery and conspiracy theories, unquote,” Mr. Johnson said as he read passages from three letters written by Democratic senators.

Those three letters were about potential foreign efforts to hack election security software and the involvement of private equity firms in companies that make election equipment.

Mr. Starr repeatedly referred to a 2005 commission led by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III that issued a “warning” about mail-in ballots.

But Mr. Carter urged the expansion of mail-in voting this year and his foundation, the Carter Center, noted that the 2005 report found “there was little evidence of voter fraud” in places with adequate safeguards.

Mr. Krebs cited and debunked a number of false conspiracy theories and rumors, including those advanced by Mr. Trump and his allies.

The claim about “a C.I.A. supercomputer and program that were flipping votes throughout the country, and in Georgia specifically” — pushed by Sidney Powell, a former lawyer for Mr. Trump — is disproved by the paper ballots, he said.

“You can always go back to the receipts. You can check your math, and Georgia did that three times, and the outcomes were consistent over and over and over again,” Mr. Krebs said.

Mr. Krebs also addressed a false claim, repeated by Mr. Trump, of a 68 percent error rate in vote counting in Antrim County in Michigan. But that, he said, was based on a misinterpretation of the programming language.

“In fact, it was not that there was 68 percent of the votes that were errors; it was that the election management system’s logs had recorded 68 percent of the logs themselves had some sort of alert rate,” Mr. Krebs said. “The problem is the report itself doesn’t actually specify any of those errors except for one.”

Mr. Krebs added: “We have to stop this. It is undermining confidence in democracy.”

Dec. 16, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET

Dec. 16, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET

Protesters in Edinburgh, Scotland, in October.
Credit…Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Twitter said on Wednesday that it would begin removing misinformation about coronavirus vaccines. The planned takedowns, which will begin next week, were announced as misinformation about the vaccines, which are just starting to be distributed in the United States, is increasing.

Tweets that claim the vaccines intentionally cause harm, or conspiracies about the dangers of vaccines, will be removed according to Twitter’s new policy. Facebook and YouTube have already said they would remove false claims about the vaccines.

“In the context of a global pandemic, vaccine misinformation presents a significant and growing public health challenge,” Twitter said in a blog post.

While Twitter already labels misinformation about the coronavirus, such as claims that masks, social distancing and other best health practices are not effective, the new policy specifically addresses vaccines.

Twitter said it would also try to draw a distinction between outright misinformation — which will be removed — and tweets that fall into a gray zone, like those expressing concern about vaccine side effects. Starting next year, the company will add labels to tweets that “advance unsubstantiated rumors, disputed claims, as well as incomplete or out-of-context information” about vaccines.

“We will prioritize the removal of the most harmful misleading information, and during the coming weeks, begin to label tweets that contain potentially misleading information about the vaccines,” the company said in the blog post.

Dec. 15, 2020, 6:28 p.m. ET

Dec. 15, 2020, 6:28 p.m. ET

A demonstration in Atlanta of a Dominion Voting Systems machine in 2019.
Credit…John Bazemore/Associated Press

A day after Michigan’s 16 electoral votes formally went to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., a voting machine manufacturer told state senators that he stood by his company’s work, and shot down unfounded allegations that the results may have been manipulated.

Dominion Voting Systems is the victim of “a dangerous and reckless disinformation campaign aimed at sowing doubt and confusion over the 2020 presidential election,” John Poulos, the company’s chief executive, told the State Senate Oversight Committee.

The company has come under fire from supporters and lawyers for President Trump, who have claimed without evidence that the company’s voting machines switched votes from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden.

Mr. Poulos assured the committee that his company had no connections to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, or George Soros, the billionaire financier who is a subject of conspiracy theories on the right.

“The comments about our company being started in Venezuela with Cuban money with the intent to steal elections are beyond bizarre and are complete lies,” Mr. Poulos added. “My company started in my basement, which happened to be in Toronto.”

State Senators, who are conducting an investigation into alleged reports of irregularities in the 2020 election, continually returned to tiny Antrim County in northern Michigan, where human error in the local clerk’s office related to updating the software in some vote tabulators caused votes for Mr. Trump to be inadvertently counted for Mr. Biden. The mistake was caught and corrected before the results of the vote were certified. Supporters of Mr. Trump have pointed to the error as proof of widespread fraud in the election.

“If all of the tabulators had been updated per our procedure, there wouldn’t have been any error in the unofficial report,” Mr. Poulos said. “Human mistakes happen, especially in busy election years when election officials work tirelessly through weekends and holidays for months on end.”

He dismissed as seriously flawed a report from a self-proclaimed election fraud expert on the Antrim County situation that has been cited by Trump allies.

Lawmakers also repeatedly asked about various other unfounded allegations, including that Dominion tabulators were connected to the internet, and consequently susceptible to hacking; and that the machines employed ranked-choice voting in Michigan.

“Would it be impossible for anything to be manipulated,” asked State Senator Michael MacDonald, a Republican.

“I don’t think so, but if it was possible, it would certainly be detectable,” Mr. Poulos responded, pointing to Michigan’s use of paper ballots. “If there was any manipulation of the system, those paper ballots would not match the machine totals.”

Although there is nothing the committee can do to alter the results, it plans to continue to investigate the election, with plans to subpoena the city clerks of Detroit and Livonia, two cities in Wayne County that drew national attention last month after Republicans on the county’s board of canvassers initially opposed certifying the election results because of minor irregularities.

Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama, at the Capitol last year. He has vowed to challenge the presidential election results when Congress meets to ratify them next month.
Credit…Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock

Even after the Electoral College certified President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner of the election on Monday, some of President Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress refused to accept his loss, vowing that they could still reverse the results on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.

Mr. Trump amplified their claims, recirculating an article on Tuesday about the efforts led by Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama, to challenge Mr. Biden’s victory when the House and Senate meet to formally ratify it on Jan. 6.

But while the Constitution gives Congress the final say in the election, there is no chance that it will agree to overturn the results and keep Mr. Trump in office.

Every four years, the House and Senate come together to formally tabulate the electoral votes and raise any final concerns about the results. Normally, it is a perfunctory confirmation of the Electoral College vote. But this year, Mr. Brooks has threatened to transform it into a messy last stand by objecting. He is all but certain to fail, but not before a potentially divisive spectacle on the House floor that could thrust Vice President Mike Pence into the politically perilous position of confirming that Mr. Trump lost.

The process is designed to be arduous. Mr. Brooks would first have to find a willing Republican senator to partner with him in the challenge, which federal law says must be co-signed by at least one member of each chamber. No Republican senator has yet come forward to back the effort, and on Tuesday, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, appealed privately to Republicans in his chamber not to join it.

Even if one did, there would not be enough support to sustain the objection. In the event of a challenge by a member of the House and Senate, the joint session would pause and lawmakers would go back to their respective chambers to debate for up to two hours. They would then vote on whether to toss out the electoral results of the state in question. Both chambers would have to agree to reject the votes, something that has not happened since the Reconstruction era.

Democrats control the House, so there is no chance that that chamber would vote to overturn the results. While Republicans lead the Senate, several members of the party there have recognized Mr. Biden as the winner of the election, and Mr. McConnell made it clear in a call with his colleagues on Tuesday that the effort would not have his support either.

Georgia’s actual members of the Electoral College cast their ballots for Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Atlanta on Monday.
Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Once the Electoral College has met and every state’s election has been certified, there is no constitutional provision for an “alternate slate” of electors. A group of people who gather in a room and claim they are electors, as state-party-backed Republicans did in a few states on Monday, have no more authority than if the people reading this article decided that they, too, wanted to be members of the Electoral College.

So while Republicans in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and Michigan followed the White House’s lead, making or discussing moves to form their own competing slates of pro-Trump electors, it was a theatrical effort with no legal pathway. Electoral College slates are tied to the winner of the popular vote in each state, and all five of those states have certified their results in favor of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The most the Republicans could do was claim a symbolic moment, saying that the people who showed up would have been the slates of electors had President Trump won those states. But since he lost them, and numerous state and federal courts have rejected his and his allies’ baseless claims of voting fraud, these groups have no actual significance.

Mr. Trump’s supporters have also seized upon some superficial murkiness in the Constitution and federal law as to whether a state legislature could appoint its own slate of electors.

Since the Electoral Count Act was enacted in 1887, a situation akin to “dueling electors” has happened only once, when Hawaii was in the throes of a close recount in 1960. The governor of Hawaii signed off on a Republican slate of electors for Richard M. Nixon before the recount was completed; when it was finished and showed John F. Kennedy ahead, the governor had to send a new Democratic slate to Congress. The Democratic slate was accepted.

The Constitution stipulates that states select their electors “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” In modern times the states have done that by holding popular elections that determine to whom their electors will be pledged. Various constitutionally enshrined rights and laws would preclude state legislatures from changing the rules and nullifying the popular will after the fact in pursuit of a different outcome.

Regardless, no state legislatures have seriously explored overturning the results, despite Mr. Trump’s entreaties to state Republican leaders.

It is up to Congress to accept the Electoral College results, which will happen on Jan. 6. Even if a state legislature were to send to Congress ballots from its own appointed slate of electors, many legal scholars have said that Congress would have to give preference to the slate sent by the governor.

In any event, both chambers would have to agree to block the pro-Biden electors. It is inconceivable that the Democrats who control the House of Representatives would consider any such move by Republicans.

While some Trump loyalists in the House, like Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, have claimed that they will try to challenge the results, many Republican senators conceded on Monday that Mr. Biden had been affirmed as the president-elect. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, appeared to close off any possibility that he would give much berth to a challenge when he congratulated Mr. Biden from the floor of the Senate on Tuesday.

Dec. 15, 2020, 3:29 p.m. ET

Dec. 15, 2020, 3:29 p.m. ET

Political signs in a yard in Columbus, Ga. The results of two runoff elections will decide which party controls the Senate.
Credit…Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Facebook said on Tuesday that it would allow some advertisers to run political issue and candidacy ads in Georgia, a change from its recent ban on political ads in the United States and just weeks before a major runoff election in the state could decide the future of the Senate.

Beginning Wednesday morning, Facebook said it would allow authorized advertisers to buy and run political ads targeted to people within Georgia. Only those previously authorized to run such ads on the platform will be permitted, a process that involves identity verification and other safety measures. Facebook’s ban on political ads will otherwise remain in effect for the remaining 49 states.

Georgia is the home to two consequential Senate runoff elections. Two Democratic candidates, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, are fighting two Republican incumbents, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The results will determine which party will control the Senate when President-elect Joseph R. Biden takes office next year.

“In recent weeks we’ve heard feedback from experts and advertisers across the political spectrum about the importance of expressing voice and using our tools to reach voters ahead of Georgia’s runoff elections,” Sarah Schiff, a Facebook product manager in charge of political advertising, said in a company blog post about the change. “We agree that our ad tools are an important way for people to get information about these elections.”

The move follows months of contentiousness around political advertising on Facebook, which critics have said helps misinformation spread. For the past few years, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has said he wishes to maintain a largely hands-off stance toward speech on the site unless it poses an immediate harm to the public or individuals, saying that he “does not want to be the arbiter of truth.”

But before the Nov. 3 presidential election, Facebook took some steps to rein in misinformation. That included halting new ad purchases in the week before Election Day, and pausing all political advertising in the United States after the polls closed. The company has said the political ads ban is temporary, but it has not said when such ads will be allowed to resume.

Facebook said it planned to ramp up the ads program slowly in Georgia, beginning with those running political campaigns in the state, as well as state and local elections officials and state and national political parties. The company added that it would reject political advertising that is targeted outside Georgia or that does not concern the coming runoff election.

Google, which paused more than five million ads that referred to the presidential election after the polls closed, said last week that it was changing that policy and would permit advertisers to begin running election-related ads again “as long as they comply with our global advertising policies.”



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