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How Misinformation ‘Superspreaders’ Seed False Election Theories

On the morning of Nov. 5, Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons, asked his Facebook followers to report cases of voter fraud with the hashtag, Stop the Steal. His post was shared over 5,000 times.

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By late afternoon, the conservative media personalities Diamond and Silk had shared the hashtag along with a video claiming voter fraud in Pennsylvania. Their post was shared over 3,800 times.

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That night, the conservative activist Brandon Straka asked people to protest in Michigan under the banner #StoptheSteal. His post was shared more than 3,700 times.

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Over the next week, the phrase “Stop the Steal” was used to promote dozens of rallies that spread false voter fraud claims about the U.S. presidential elections.

New research from Avaaz, a global human rights group, the Elections Integrity Partnership and The New York Times shows how a small group of people — mostly right-wing personalities with outsized influence on social media — helped spread the false voter-fraud narrative that led to those rallies.

That group, like the guests of a large wedding held during the pandemic, were “superspreaders” of misinformation around voter fraud, seeding falsehoods that include the claims that dead people voted, voting machines had technical glitches, and mail-in ballots were not correctly counted.

“Because of how Facebook’s algorithm functions, these superspreaders are capable of priming a discourse,” said Fadi Quran, a director at Avaaz. “There is often this assumption that misinformation or rumors just catch on. These superspreaders show that there is an intentional effort to redefine the public narrative.”

Across Facebook, there were roughly 3.5 million interactions — including likes, comments and shares — on public posts referencing “Stop the Steal” during the week of Nov. 3, according to the research. Of those, the profiles of Eric Trump, Diamond and Silk and Mr. Straka accounted for a disproportionate share — roughly 6 percent, or 200,000, of those interactions.

While the group’s impact was notable, it did not come close to the spread of misinformation promoted by President Trump since then. Of the 20 most-engaged Facebook posts over the last week containing the word “election,” all were from Mr. Trump, according to Crowdtangle, a Facebook-owned analytics tool. All of those claims were found to be false or misleading by independent fact checkers.

The baseless election fraud claims have been used by the president and his supporters to challenge the vote in a number of states. Reports that malfunctioning voting machines, intentionally miscounted mail-in votes and other irregularities affecting the vote were investigated by election officials and journalists who found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The voter fraud claims have continued to gather steam in recent weeks, thanks in large part to prominent accounts. A look at a four-week period starting in mid-October shows that President Trump and the top 25 superspreaders of voter fraud misinformation accounted for 28.6 percent of the interactions people had with that content, according to an analysis by Avaaz.

“What we see these people doing is kind of like setting a fire down with fuel, it is designed to quickly create a blaze,” Mr. Quran said. “These actors have built enough power they ensure this misinformation reaches millions of Americans.”

In order to find the superspreaders, Avaaz compiled a list of 95,546 Facebook posts that included narratives about voter fraud. Those posts were liked, shared or commented on nearly 60 million times by people on Facebook.

Avaaz found that just 33 of the 95,546 posts were responsible for over 13 million of those interactions. Those 33 posts had created a narrative that would go on to shape what millions of people thought about the legitimacy of the U.S. elections.

A spokesman for Facebook said the company had added labels to posts that misrepresented the election process and was directing people to a voting information center.

“We’re taking every opportunity to connect people to reliable information about the election and how votes are being counted,” said Kevin McAlister, a Facebook spokesman. The company has not commented on why accounts that repeatedly share misinformation, such as Mr. Straka’s and Diamond and Silk’s, have not been penalized. Facebook has previously said that President Trump, along with other elected officials, is granted a special status and is not fact-checked.

Many of the superspreader accounts had millions of interactions on their Facebook posts over the last month, and have enjoyed continued growth. The accounts were active on Twitter as well as Facebook, and increasingly spread the same misinformation on new social media sites like Parler, MeWe and Gab.

Dan Bongino, a right-wing commentator with a following of nearly four million people on Facebook, had over 7.7 million interactions on Facebook the week of Nov. 3. Mark Levin, a right-wing radio host, had nearly four million interactions, and Diamond and Silk had 2.5 million. A review of their pages by The Times shows that a majority of their posts have focused on the recent elections, and voter fraud narratives around them.

None of the superspreaders identified in this article responded to requests for comment.

One of the most prominent false claims promoted by the superspreaders was that Dominion voting software deleted votes for Mr. Trump, or somehow changed vote tallies in several swing states. Election officials have found no evidence that the machines malfunctioned, but posts about the machines have been widely shared by Mr. Trump and his supporters.

Over the last week, just seven posts from the top 25 superspreaders of the Dominion voter fraud claim accounted for 13 percent of the total interactions on Facebook about the claim.

Many of those same accounts were also top superspreaders of the Dominion claim, and other voter fraud theories, on Twitter. The accounts of President Trump, his son Eric, Mr. Straka and Mr. Levin were all among the top 20 accounts that spread misinformation about voter fraud on Twitter, according to Ian Kennedy, a researcher at the University of Washington who works with the Elections Integrity Partnership.

Mr. Trump had by far the largest influence on Twitter. A single tweet by the president accusing Dominion voting systems of deleting 2.7 million votes in his favor was shared over 185,000 times, and liked over 600,000 times.

Like the other false claims about voter fraud, Mr. Trump’s tweet included a label by Twitter that he was sharing information that was not accurate.

Twitter, like Facebook, has said that those labels help prevent false claims from being shared and direct people toward more authoritative sources of information.

Earlier this week, BuzzFeed News reported that Facebook employees questioned whether the labels were effective. Within the company, employees have sought out their own data on how well national newspapers performed during the elections, according to one Facebook employee.

On the #StoptheSteal hashtag, they found that both The New York Times and The Washington Post were among the top 25 pages with interactions on that hashtag — mainly from readers sharing articles and using the hashtag in those posts.

Combined, the two publications had approximately 44,000 interactions on Facebook under that hashtag. By comparison, Mr. Straka, the conservative activist who shared the call to action on voter fraud, got three times that number of interactions sharing material under the same hashtag on his own Facebook account.

Jacob Silver contributed reporting.

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QAnon Struggles After Trump Election Defeat

Last weekend, as jubilant Democrats danced in the streets to celebrate the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the country’s 46th president, QAnon believers were on their computers trying to make sense of it all.

“Biden will NEVER be president,” wrote one QAnon believer, still firmly stuck in the denial stage of grief.

“Trump knows what he is doing,” wrote a member of a QAnon forum, well on his way to bargaining. “He is letting the Dems, technocrats and media publicly hang themselves.”

Some QAnon believers, however, were already inching toward acceptance.

“We’re losing,” one tweeted. “Not sure I trust the plan anymore. Not sure there even is a plan.”

These are trying times for believers in QAnon, the baseless conspiracy theory that falsely claims the existence of a satanic pedophile cult run by top Democrats. For years, they had been assured that Mr. Trump would win re-election in a landslide and spend his second term vanquishing the deep state and bringing the cabal’s leaders to justice. Q, the pseudonymous message board user whose cryptic posts have fueled the movement for more than three years, told them to “trust the plan.”

But since Mr. Trump’s defeat, Q has gone dark. No posts from the account bearing Q’s tripcode, or digital user name, have appeared on 8kun, the website where all of Q’s posts appear. And overall QAnon-related activity on the site has slowed to a trickle. (On a recent day, there were fewer new posts on one of 8kun’s QAnon boards than on its board for adult-diaper fetishists.)

There are also signs of infighting among QAnon’s inner circle. Ron Watkins, an 8kun administrator who some believed was Q himself, announced on Election Day that he was stepping down from the site, citing “extensive battles” over censorship and the site’s future. His father, Jim Watkins, a professed QAnon believer who owns 8kun, has been singing hymns on his livestream and posting debunked claims about voter fraud, but has not given any indication of when Q might return.

Q’s sudden disappearance has been jarring for QAnon believers, who have come to depend on the account’s posts, or “drops,” for updates and reassurance.

“They feel really defeated by the deep state, even if they’re not admitting it in public,” said Fredrick Brennan, the founder of 8chan, 8kun’s predecessor site. Mr. Brennan, who has left the site and become a vocal critic of Mr. Watkins, said QAnon believers had bought into the idea that Mr. Trump was fully in control, even as the polls showed he had a slim chance of winning.

“They were not expecting him to lose, and they were not expecting Fox News to call it,” he said. “It was really psychologically damaging.”

Over the last few months, QAnon followers have been barred from most major social media platforms, deflating the movement’s momentum and depriving it of its most effective organizing tools. Large Facebook groups and YouTube channels with hundreds of thousands of subscribers disappeared overnight, and some of QAnon’s most prominent promoters have been reduced to peddling conspiracy theories on fringe websites.

The crackdowns have hurt QAnon’s grifter class — the self-appointed leaders who make a living selling Q merchandise, writing QAnon-themed books and organizing offline Q events. But they also disconnected rank-and-file believers from the communities where they gathered to discuss the news, decode the latest drops and plan for the future.

“QAnon believers were hoping for direction if Trump lost, and not only are they unable to hook into Q, there have also been moves by platform companies to remove other sources of entertainment and leadership,” said Joan Donovan, the research director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center.

Election Day was not a total loss for QAnon. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, two Republicans who have praised the conspiracy theory, won their House elections and will be sworn in next year.

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Credit…Erik S Lesser/EPA, via Shutterstock

“QAnon believers are used to having Q’s predictions not come true,” said William Partin, a research analyst at the nonprofit Data & Society who has studied the QAnon movement. “Sometimes people get disappointed and quit. Others try to adjust the overall narrative to make the setback part of some larger plan. But it’s very difficult to do that kind of adjustment with something as large as losing the presidential election.”

Some QAnon watchers I spoke with speculated that during a Biden presidency, some of the movement’s most prominent influencers would quietly peel off into adjacent conspiracy theory communities — stirring up fears about child sex trafficking as part of the Save Our Children movement, for example, or sowing distrust in a Covid-19 vaccine.

QAnon supporters also could throw themselves behind more mainstream conservative efforts to dispute the election’s results. Already, some QAnon influencers have been promoting Stop the Steal rallies in states where Mr. Trump and his supporters have made baseless claims of voter fraud.

In some ways, QAnon believers are well positioned to help Mr. Trump recast himself as the victim of a Democratic coup. They are experienced and savvy content generators, with an appetite for far-fetched conspiracy theories and delayed gratification. They are also part of a hyperpartisan audience accustomed to questioning official narratives. A Morning Consult survey conducted over the weekend found that seven out of 10 Republicans now doubt that the 2020 election was “free and fair.”

Some QAnon believers are already latching on to a bogus conspiracy theory known as Operation Hammer and Scorecard, which falsely claims that a supercomputer and a software program were used to change tabulated vote totals. (Christopher C. Krebs, the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency, called the theory “nonsense” and urged people not to fall for it.) Others have begun spinning a convoluted fantasy that Mr. Trump secretly placed invisible watermarks on ballots in order to entrap Democrats in a voter fraud scheme.

None of the experts predicted that QAnon would disappear, or said those seduced by the theory would magically snap out of it. In some ways, they said, the movement has outgrown its founding myths.

“QAnon is about cultivating this way of knowing, by tying together all these stories and posts and creating a compelling narrative that offers an alternative to the mainstream press,” Mr. Partin said. “That will persist, whether or not Q is posting.”

So far, no plan has emerged for what QAnon believers will do when Mr. Trump’s presidency does, in fact, come to an end, especially if Q is no longer there to steer them to a new theory.

On a podcast on Friday, two prominent QAnon influencers, known by their online handles InTheMatrixxx and Shady Groove, urged their fellow believers not to give up hope. The election will be proven fraudulent, they agreed, and Q’s prediction of a Trump victory will look even more prescient in hindsight.

“We’re winning, folks,” InTheMatrixxx said.

Shady Groove agreed.

“This is not what you thought winning would look like,” he said. “But trust me.”

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How Twitter Policed Trump During the 2020 US Election




President Trump’s Tweets

Since Election Day

25 tweets

Labeling increased after Mr. Trump began making claims about voting fraud.

20

Labeled misleading or disputed

15

12:21 p.m.

“STOP THE FRAUD!”

10

5

0

Tues.

Wed.

Thurs.

Fri.

President Trump’s Tweets Since Election Day

First tweets after polls closed.

0

5 tweets

10

15

20

25

Tuesday

Labeled misleading or disputed

Labeling increased when Mr. Trump made claims of fraud after polls closed.

Wednesday

4:56 p.m. Wed.

“…..there was a large number of secretly dumped ballots as has been widely reported!”

Thursday

Friday

President Trump’s Tweets Since Election Day

First tweets after polls closed.

0

5 tweets

10

20

15

25

Tuesday

Labeled misleading or disputed

Labeling increased when Mr. Trump made claims of voting fraud after polls closed.

Wednesday

4:56 p.m. Wed.

“…..there was a large number of secretly dumped ballots as has been widely reported!”

Thursday

Friday


Note: As of 4:30 p.m. Eastern time Friday.

Data compiled by Kate Conger

Twitter flagged half of President Trump’s 14 posts on Thursday for including disputed or misleading information, as the company takes a far more aggressive approach to battling misinformation on its platform.

In the hours and days after the election, the president repeatedly lashed out about vote counting and lobbed unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud. Through Friday afternoon, Twitter labeled 15 of the 44 tweets and retweets Mr. Trump posted since the first polls closed on Election Day, according to a New York Times analysis.

Before the election, the company had flagged only a handful of his tweets for violating policies against the glorification of violence and misinformation about the civic process.

In the early hours of Friday, Mr. Trump fired back, referring to a law that provides a legal safe harbor to Twitter and other social media companies.

For months, Twitter has been locked in a fight with the president over what he can and cannot tweet. In May, the company began adding fact-checks and labels to his posts as a way to demonstrate that Mr. Trump had broken its policies. (Twitter does not require world leaders to delete tweets that break its rules, as it does regular users.) Mr. Trump responded by signing an executive order intended to chip away at the protections of Section 230, which is part of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

Twitter has broken ranks with other social media companies in its persistent effort to moderate the president. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has said he has no desire to fact-check Mr. Trump. Facebook said it would caution users about premature claims of victory with a notification that the election had yet to be called, and took action on some of Mr. Trump’s posts in which he claimed the election was being stolen.

The battle between Twitter and Mr. Trump has become a round-the-clock event since the election, as the president has increasingly, without evidence, questioned the voting process and the results.

Twitter’s labeling of Mr. Trump’s tweets meant that people needed to click through their warnings to see the posts, making each one harder to share. In the past, those actions by Twitter have helped slow the overall spread of false or potentially misleading tweets, according to an analysis by the Election Integrity Partnership, a coalition of misinformation researchers.

The Trump campaign said Twitter was working to “silence the president.” A Twitter spokesman said the company planned to continue to take action against tweets that prematurely declared victory or contained misleading information.

Members of Mr. Trump’s family and staff have also tested Twitter’s boundaries, forcing the company to keep pace as they claimed that he had won the vote in Pennsylvania, a race that had yet to be called by Friday afternoon. And as key states appeared to tip in favor of Joseph R. Biden Jr., Twitter also added labels to tweets from Democrats who pre-emptively claimed Mr. Biden had won the presidency.

With votes still being counted, Twitter’s challenge isn’t over. And even when a winner is declared, Twitter may continue its effort to moderate Mr. Trump. He has indicated that he plans to contest the election results if he is not declared the winner, and is likely to take to Twitter to air his grievances.

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How Claims of Dead Michigan Voters Spread Faster Than the Facts

The tweets began to arrive Wednesday night, carrying explosive claims that people in Michigan were voting under the names of dead people.

Austen Fletcher, a former Ivy League football player turned right-wing internet journalist, said in videos posted to Twitter that he had discovered registration documents on a State of Michigan website that showed that four people with reported birth dates from 1900 to 1902 had submitted absentee ballots ahead of Tuesday’s election. “How long has this been going on?” he asked.

By Thursday morning, Mr. Fletcher’s videos were the talk of the Republican internet. “Why is it taking regular Americans to expose this level of obvious corruption?” said Candace Owens, a conservative commentator, sharing one of the videos to her 2.7 million Twitter followers.

Yet a few phone calls by Mr. Fletcher would have revealed evidence that indicates that what appeared to be fraud were run-of-the-mill clerical errors.

In one case, a 74-year-old woman in Hamlin Township, Mich., had asked for an absentee ballot for the first time in years, setting off a notice from the state’s digital voter rolls that her birth date was not on file, according to Catherine Lewis, the town’s clerk. The system had assigned the woman the default birth date: 01/01/01, or Jan. 1, 1901.

Ms. Lewis said she knew the woman. Hamlin Township, a rural community on Lake Michigan, has just 3,400 people. She said she had driven to the woman’s home and collected a copy of her driver’s license so she could vote by mail. But Ms. Lewis had not gotten around to updating her file. “Rest assured,” Ms. Lewis said, “she is a legal voter.”

Then, on Thursday morning, after a marathon week for Ms. Lewis running the town’s vote, her phone began ringing. “I have had 18 calls and at least 20 strange emails asking me if I committed voter fraud,” she said. She was staying home with her family. “I need to be concerned about my family’s welfare,” she said.

In a text message on Friday, Mr. Fletcher, who goes by the pseudonym Fleccas online, said he was about to publish evidence that thousands of ballots in Michigan had been submitted under the names of dead people. He declined to speak on the phone. “Who is requesting, filling out, and returning these ballots,” he said in his message. “How many got thru? That’s my question.”

Since the polls closed on Tuesday, a number of internet sleuths have widely disseminated what they said was evidence that showed Democrats were trying to steal the election. In virtually every case so far, mainstream journalists have found the claims to be false or the product of typical errors in the election process.

Yet many people have not heard the truth behind the claims they are sharing — or, if they have, have dismissed it. Social media has created echo chambers where people hear largely from like-minded voices. And President Trump’s years of attacks on the media have caused many of his supporters to distrust journalists.

The result is a growing belief among some Americans that the 2020 election has been undermined by widespread fraud — a view sharply amplified by the president — despite virtually no evidence.

“What’s that saying? A lie gets halfway around the world by the time the truth gets its pants on,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Texas Republican consultant who inadvertently spurred false voter-fraud claims on Wednesday.

Mr. Mackowiak posted screenshots of an election map on Twitter that appeared to show that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had received 100 percent of newly counted ballots in an update to the vote count in Michigan early Wednesday.

Like Mr. Fletcher’s dead-voter videos, Mr. Mackowiak’s screenshots swiftly went viral. Conservative websites posted stories with headlines like “Very Odd: Michigan Found Over 100,000 Ballots and Every Single One Has Joe Biden’s Name on It.” About two hours later, Mr. Trump had shared the images on Twitter with the caption, “WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?”

By that time, Mr. Mackowiak had seen people suggesting that the numbers he highlighted were the result of an error that had been fixed. He deleted his original tweet and wrote a new post clarifying that the suspicious numbers were not the result of fraud.

The New York Times found that Mr. Biden did not receive any of the votes in question and that the mix-up was the result of a typo in a small Michigan county that was caught and corrected in about 30 minutes.

Still, Mr. Mackowiak’s images continued to rocket around the internet. They were ultimately shared hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter. His correction? It had been shared 3,600 times as of Friday.

There was a similar story in Detroit, where the other two examples in Mr. Fletcher’s videos matched eligible voters with identical names and ZIP codes there.

The city appeared to have mistakenly recorded the vote of William T. Bradley under his dead father, who had the same name and ZIP code. Mr. Bradley said in an interview that he had voted by mail for the first time because of the pandemic. He said that the ballot did not ask for his birth date and that he simply filled it out, signed it and sent it in mid-September. According to the State of Michigan website, his dead father mailed an absentee ballot on Sept. 19. It said Mr. Bradley never returned his.

In the fourth case, there was another eligible Detroit voter with an identical name and ZIP code as the person named in Mr. Fletcher’s video. That person could not be reached.

The Detroit city clerk did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Fletcher’s dead-voter claims were shared hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter, reaching millions of people. On Thursday morning, the Michigan Department of State tweeted its response.

“Fact check: Ballots of deceased voters are not counted,” it said. “On rare occasions, a ballot received for a living voter may be recorded in a way that makes it appear as if the voter is dead,” such as someone with an incorrect birth date or a son being mistaken for his father with the same name, the statement added. “In such scenarios, no one ineligible has actually voted, and there is no impact on the outcome of the election.”

The message was shared on Twitter fewer than 450 times as of Friday.

Mr. Fletcher doubled down. He shared an image on Twitter of four urns with a “Biden-Harris” and “I voted” stickers. Hours later, he uploaded a new video to YouTube, Facebook and Instagram of him walking through his findings again. In the video, he read the statement from Michigan officials.

“Maybe Michigan caught some. I hope they did. But how many didn’t get filtered through in the process and actually made it through and counted?” he said. “Maybe all these people voted for Joe Biden?”

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‘Stop the Steal’ Facebook Group Is Taken Down

OAKLAND, Calif. — The first post in the new Facebook group that was started on Wednesday was innocuous enough. “Welcome” to Stop the Steal, it said.

But an hour later, the group uploaded a minute-long video to its Facebook page with a pointed message. The grainy footage showed a crowd outside a polling station in Detroit, shouting and chanting “stop the count.” Below the video, which was quickly shared nearly 2,000 times, members of the group commented “Biden is stealing the vote” and “this is unfair.”

The viral video helped turn the Stop the Steal Facebook group into one of the fastest-growing groups in Facebook’s history. By Thursday morning, less than 22 hours after it was started, it had amassed more than 320,000 users — at one point gaining 100 new members every 10 seconds. As its momentum grew, it caught the attention of Facebook executives, who shut down the group hours later for trying to incite violence.

Even so, the Stop the Steal Facebook group had done its work. In its brief life span, it became a hub for people to falsely claim that the ballot count for the presidential election was being manipulated against President Trump. New photographs, videos and testimonials asserting voter fraud were posted to the group every few minutes. From there, they traveled onto Twitter, YouTube and right-wing sites that cited the unsubstantiated and inaccurate posts as evidence of an illegitimate voting process.

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Stop the Steal’s rapid rise and amplifying effects also showed how Facebook groups are a powerful tool for seeding and accelerating online movements, including those filled with misinformation. Facebook groups, which are public and can be joined by anyone with a Facebook account, have long been the nerve centers for fringe movements such as QAnon and anti-vaccination activists. And while Stop the Steal has been deleted, other Facebook groups promoting falsehoods about voter fraud have popped up.

“Facebook groups are powerful infrastructure for organizing,” said Renee DiResta, a disinformation researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory. She added that the Stop the Steal Facebook group helped people coalesce around a baseless belief that the election was being unlawfully taken from Mr. Trump.

Tom Reynolds, a Facebook spokesman, said the social network removed the Stop the Steal group as part of the “exceptional measures” it was taking on the election. “The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group,” he said.

Stop the Steal was born on Facebook on Wednesday at 3 p.m. Eastern time as the outcome of the presidential election remained uncertain. About 12 hours earlier, as the vote counts showed a tight race between Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Trump had posted without evidence on Facebook and Twitter that “They are trying to STEAL the Election.” Mr. Trump has since repeated that assertion openly in remarks from the White House and on social media.

The idea of a stolen election quickly spread among Mr. Trump’s supporters, including to a Facebook user named Kylie Jane Kremer. Ms. Kremer, 30, a former Tea Party activist, runs a conservative nonprofit called Women for America First. She created the Stop the Steal Facebook group.

In an interview on Thursday from a protest in Atlanta, Ms. Kremer said she had started the Facebook group after speaking with conservative activists and seeing social media posts about voter fraud. She said she wanted to help organize people across the United States on the issue and centralize discussions over protests and rallies.

“I knew other people saw this the same as I did, that there were people out there trying to steal the election from the rightful person,” Ms. Kremer said, referring to Mr. Trump. “I wanted us to be able to organize to take action.”

Once the Facebook group was live, she said, it took off. Hundreds of members joined within the first hour. Then people began sharing videos — including the one showing people chanting “stop the count” in Detroit — and photographs, which were quickly shared to other Facebook pages and groups.

”It was like lightning in a bottle,” Ms. Kremer said. “The group grew so fast we were struggling to keep up with the people trying to post.”

Many of the posts shared anecdotal stories claiming voter fraud or intimidation against Mr. Trump’s supporters. One post asserted that poll workers counting the ballots were wearing masks with the Biden campaign’s logo, while another said that Mr. Trump’s supporters were purposefully given faulty ballots that could not be read by machines.

Others posted about violence. One member of the Facebook group wrote on Wednesday, “This is going to take more than talk to fix.” Underneath that post, another member responded with emojis of explosions.

On Thursday morning, the Stop the Steal Facebook group’s growth skyrocketed further, according to data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned social media analytics tool.

That was when right-wing figures such as Jack Posobiec, a pro-Trump activist, and Amy Kremer, Ms. Kremer’s mother and a founder of a group called Women for Trump, began posting about the Facebook group on Twitter. Ali Alexander, a political operative who previously went by the name Ali Akbar, also tweeted dozens of times about the Stop the Steal movement to his 140,000 Twitter followers.

Their messages, which were shared thousands of times, were a rallying cry for people to join the Stop the Steal Facebook group and take action in local protests against voter fraud.

“In just it’s first couple hours, more than 100,000 people joined the Women for America First, Stop the Steal Facebook Group,” wrote Mr. Posobiec. In comments below his post, many people cheered the Facebook group’s popularity.

The tweets helped send more people to Stop the Steal. Interactions with the Facebook group soared to 36 posts a minute on Thursday morning, up from roughly one post a minute, according to CrowdTangle data.

Mr. Posobiec, Mr. Alexander and Amy Kremer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

At Facebook, executives were notified of the group by Facebook moderators as they began flagging posts for potential calls for violence and protests to disrupt the vote. The company also received calls from journalists about the group and its explosive growth. By midmorning, executives were discussing whether they should remove Stop the Steal, said one employee involved in the discussions who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Facebook took down the group on Thursday at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Ms. Kremer said that she was angry that Facebook had removed her group and that she was in discussions with the company to reinstate it. She accused Facebook, along with other social media companies, of censoring the Stop the Steal movement.

“Facebook had other options,” she said. “They were flagging our posts and we could have worked with them. But this is what they do, they censor.”

Still, Ms. Kremer said that before the group was taken down, its members had successfully organized events in dozens of cities. She has set up another website about voter fraud and was now directing people to it, she said.

On Facebook, dozens of new Stop the Steal groups have been created since the company removed Ms. Kremer’s group. One had nearly 10,000 members. Another had just over 2,000.