The Next 2020 Election Fight? Convincing Trump’s Supporters That He Lost



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Scores of President Trump supporters gathered for a «Stop the Steal» protest at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg on Thursday, many alleging that votes are being stolen from the president, of which there is no evidence.

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While these sorts of assertions largely have not found a receptive home in the courts, they have found one online.

Social media groups have quickly sprung up in the days since voting stopped, to spread disinformation about supposed cheating on the part of election officials, and in some cases organize in-person protests.

«This is the most intense online disinformation event in U.S. history and the pace of what we have found has only accelerated since [Election Day],» said Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and Facebook’s former chief security officer.

The social media groups are reusing channels that have previously been aimed at sharing other conspiracy theories that cater mostly to Republicans, says Melissa Ryan, who runs the firm Card Strategies, which researches disinformation.

«These ‘Stop The Steal’ protests are clearly building off the infrastructure from the reopen protests that we saw earlier in the year during the pandemic,» Ryan said. «And frankly, they’re using the same strategy and infrastructure as the Tea Party back in 2009, 2010.»

Trump has been the driving force of that misinformation online, however. Three of the four most popular posts on Facebook in the past 24 hours were posts by the president in which he falsely claimed victory or alluded to doubts about the election’s fairness.

«I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!» Trump said on Saturday.

Experts say as long as that language continues, it’s hard to imagine the U.S. uniting behind a Biden administration in the way the former vice president says he wants it to.

A concession from Trump has no legal effect, and Biden will become the 46th president with or without one. But Alberto Gonzales, who served as U.S. attorney general under President George W. Bush, says an acknowledgment from Trump that he lost would go a long way to cool the current political climate.

«That would send a tremendous signal,» Gonzales told NPR. «It would boost the reputation of President Trump. I think that would certainly lower the [country’s] temperature if he would do what is the right thing to do.»

NPR’s Hannah Allam and Shannon Bond contributed to this report.

  • President Trump
  • Joe Biden
  • election



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