Three of the top 10 hashtags used in Twitter posts about the 2020 election on Thursday promoted unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud, according to a new report from nonpartisan nonprofit Advance Democracy. Among the hashtags were “stopthesteal”, “#mailfraud” and “#voterfraud.” On Wednesday, there were no hashtags in the top 10 referencing election fraud.
While there were about 6 million fewer posts about the election on Twitter on Thursday afternoon compared to the previous day, “there has been a dramatic increase in disinformation,” the report said.
A Twitter spokesperson said it has been "proactively monitoring" the hashtag "#stopthesteal" and related tweets since Tuesday morning, and it has taken down some tweets that violate its policies.
Of the 10 most shared links about the 2020 election on Twitter on Thursday, seven were to right-wing websites, per the report.
The top shared links were to articles on websites including Breitbart News, The Gateway Pundit, and The Federalist. On Wednesday, there were no links to right-wing sites in the top-10 most shared links related to the election.
Many of the top links were articles questioning the integrity of the Presidential election, such as one from The Federalist headlined “Yes, Democrats Are Trying To Steal The Election In Michigan, Wisconsin, And Pennsylvania.” That link was shared on Twitter by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. Twitter applied a label to the tweet that read, “Learn about US 2020 election security efforts” and linked out to its Civic Integrity policy. Other tweets sharing the link to The Federalist story also had the same label applied to them.
The most shared link about the 2020 election on Thursday was to an informational page from Democrats.org explaining the extra steps voters in Georgia may need to take to fix their absentee ballot and ensure their vote is accepted. Georgia is among the states with a razor-thin margin between the presidential candidates.
Followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory are still making a dent in the election conversation, too. The report found that QAnon-related accounts were responsible for almost 10% of the amplification of the hashtags “#voterfraud” & “#trump2002”, and more than 6% of the amplification of the hashtags for “#stopthesteal” and “#mailfraud”. (QAnon is a dangerous conspiracy theory and virtual cult that began in late 2017.)
In July, Twitter removed thousands of accounts linked to the QAnon conspiracy group and said it would "permanently suspend accounts Tweeting about these topics" and "coordinating abuse around individual victims." Despite the crackdown, Advance Democracy found more than 95,200 active QAnon-related accounts on Twitter as of Thursday.
Twitter on Thursday said it has "reduced impressions" on QAnon-related tweets by more than 50%.
Advance Democracy is defining “posts” as tweets, retweets, quote tweets, or replies. Posts were determined to be related to the 2020 election if they included terms or hashtags like election, vote, mail-in, ballots, “#howtostealanelection”, “#voterfraud” and so on.