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Insurrectionists And White Nationalists Gather On Chinese-Owned Trovo Site

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Multiple far-right and white nationalist figures -- including some involved with the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol -- have shifted to the gaming-streaming platform Trovo, including using it to monetize their content. Some have used the platform to specifically defend the insurrection; one such person appears to be part of a special Trovo program that can help them raise additional money. Trovo's policies seemingly prohibit white nationalist content and content not related to video games.

Following the insurrection, streaming platform DLive, known for hosting many far-right figures -- some of whom used the platform to livestream the riot -- announced that it would ban several of those accounts. It also announced it would demonetize content that is "deemed to only be appropriate for mature audiences," which it says covers "virtually all non-gaming content."

Since then, multiple far-right figures have started migrating to Trovo, a streaming platform from Tencent still in beta testing. (Tencent is China's largest company and the operator of WeChat.) Trovo's terms of service prohibit content that is "overly violent or promotes or depicts events involving self-harm, harm to another person or harm to animals" and content that is "threatening, abusive, libelous, slanderous, fraudulent, defamatory, deceptive, or otherwise offensive or objectionable." The platform's content guidelines also allow only content that is "relevant to video games and pop culture," and they prohibit "overtly political or religious content that imposes upon others."

Despite those rules, multiple far-right figures have used the platform, often uploading content that is not related to those specifically allowed topics. They've also sometimes used the platform to monetize their content indirectly -- or possibly directly, as the platform provides an avenue for creators to monetize via its digital currencies. Some of these figures have been directly tied to the insurrection.

Vincent James Foxx, a white nationalist who attended the January 6 rally and who is banned from YouTube and DLive, joined Trovo in January. From the platform, James has earned "subs" and "spells," part of the platform's digital currencies which potentially can be converted into actual money. His channel also promotes a link to his Entropy page, a platform from which people can pay creators. On Trovo, James has criticized former President Donald Trump for not "back[ing] his supporters during the Capitol siege" and for not pardoning them after.

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MurderTheMedia, a channel affiliated with the far-right gang Proud Boys and which was banned by DLive following the insurrection, joined Trovo in January. Two members of the channel, Nicholas DeCarlo (also known as "Dick NeCarlo") and Nick Ochs (the head of the Proud Boys' Hawaii chapter), were charged by authorities for being part of the insurrection and were photographed giving thumbs up next to the scrawled words "Murder the Media" at the Capitol during the siege. One of them was also wearing a shirt with the "Murder The Media" logo at the time. On Trovo, MurderTheMedia has earned "spells" that can potentially be converted into actual money. The account has also aired a stream featuring NeCarlo trying to raise funds for his legal case and saying he would "fight" authorities and "punch a motherfucker in the face in the courtroom."

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Ali Alexander is a far-right figure who was a key organizer of the "Stop the Steal" efforts that culminated in the January 6 rally leading to the insurrection. Alexander, who has since been banned from multiple platforms, joined Trovo in February. Since then, he has used the platform to call for the free press "to be abolished" and has threatened to meet authorities on the "battlefield" if they attempt to arrest him.

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Some white nationalist "Groypers" who attended the insurrection have joined Trovo as well.

Other white nationalist and far-right figures have also made a home on Trovo since the insurrection.

  • Trovo.
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QAnon Cultists And Far-Right Sites Praise Myanmar Military Coup

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory and users on far-right message boards are lauding the military coup in Myanmar and saying the U.S. military should take similar action against President Joe Biden over false claims of voter fraud.

On February 1, Myanmar's military initiated a coup against the country's civilian government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, after her party won a majority in parliament in November. The military claimed the coup was necessary due to allegations of voter fraud in the election, though it has not provided concrete evidence of those claims. The Biden administration has condemned the coup and threatened to reimpose sanctions on the country in response.

Far-right message boards and those in the QAnon community cheered the coup as Myanmar "awakening," drawing parallels to their own false claims that Biden was elected due to voter fraud and questioning "when will this happen here" and when the military will "arrest [American] politicians too."

TheDonald Myanmar14chan Myanmar1

QAnon influencers also claimed that the coup should be "a lesson" for Biden and that Biden was "scared this might happen here" because the coup showed people "waking up to Election Fraud the world over."

QAnon Myanmar1QAnon Myanmar1QAnon Myanmar3

Some even made an effort to tie in China and the companies Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems -- entities that were key parts of false voter fraud conspiracy theories in the 2020 presidential election -- to Myanmar's elections in order to prove supposed fraud there as well.

QAnon Myanmar4QAnon Myanmar6QAnon Myanmar7

QAnon's premise rests on the violent arrests and killing of those its adherents accuse of being pedophiles and part of a cabal. Its supporters had hoped the military would stop Biden from taking office, and some were also involved with storming the United States Capitol to stop the certification of his victory. QAnon supporters' attraction to Myanmar's coup shows how central these beliefs are to the conspiracy theory. Far-right message boards have also previously displayed clear anti-democratic sympathies.

As Biden Takes Office, QAnon Cultists Struggle With New Reality

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Supporters of the false QAnon conspiracy theory are struggling to respond to President Joe Biden taking office.

The conspiracy theory has been centered around former President Donald Trump and a secret plot to take down his perceived enemies, the "deep state," and a cabal of satan-worshipping pedophiles. Supporters of the conspiracy theory, which has gained an extensive influence in the American political process and hampered the response to the coronavirus pandemic, had been in denial about Biden's victory throughout the transition. They repeatedly claimed that somehow Trump would stay in office -- possibly via military means and martial law -- even when he made clear otherwise.

That denial about Biden's presidency carried through in the morning hours of Inauguration Day (though there were signs by the day before of a splintering in support for the conspiracy theory).

First, QAnon supporters began to claim that the number of American flags behind Trump at his farewell speech at Joint Base Andrews was a signal to QAnon.

Some QAnon followers also suggested a line in Eric Trump's farewell message saying "the best is yet to come" proved the conspiracy theory.

Multiple QAnon influencers even claimed that as he took office, Biden would reveal he was part of the conspiracy theory all along.

Obviously, none of this happened, and Biden has now been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Leading up to and following the inauguration ceremony, some QAnon supporters began to worry that they had been deceived and others denied that it was possible. Other QAnon influencers are still urging supporters to still believe in the conspiracy theory, with some claiming the military may step in to prevent Biden's presidency (or seeming to suggest people will commit violence to stop it), a sign that the conspiracy theory in some form is likely here to stay -- even if its central figure is no longer president.

QAnon Grifters Ron And Jim Watkins Exploit Election Conspiracies

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Ron Watkins, one of the heads of a far-right message board site known for hosting the account behind the QAnon conspiracy theory, is now trying to spread false conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, and his claims have been promoted by President Donald Trump himself. His father, Jim Watkins, who has actively exploited QAnon as the owner of the site 8kun, appears to be trying to capitalize on his son's newfound popularity to promote the site as well.

8kun is an anonymous message board site previously known as 8chan that was founded to allow for more user freedom than fellow far-right message board site 4chan supposedly provided. The site first became popular back in 2014 due to "Gamergate," a misogynistic harassment campaign against women in gaming. In 2019, the site was knocked offline for months for hosting the manifestos of multiple alleged white nationalist shooters, later relaunching as 8kun.

8chan/8kun has also been the main hub for the QAnon conspiracy theory, which has been tied to multiple violent acts and labeled by the FBI as a potential domestic terrorist threat, with "Q," the conspiracy theory's central figure, posting on the site. (8chan founder Frederick Brennan has also alleged that "Q" has corresponded with both Jim and Ron Watkins, who he said assist "Q" in order to keep it on their site.)

Ron Watkins -- who lives in Japan and served as 8kun's administrator, though he claimed last fall that he had resigned -- has used Twitter since the election to relentlessly push voter fraud conspiracy theories, the false claim that voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems created and stole votes for President-elect Joe Biden. As part of this campaign, he has encouraged his followers to harass Dominion facilities in Georgia and teamed up with a QAnon influencer to post video he falsely claimed showed wrongdoing by a Dominion employee. The video caused people to send death threats to the employee. He also helped spread a QAnon-connected hashtag urging Trump to overturn the election via martial law.

As Ron Watkins has pushed these claims and seen his Twitter follower numbers grow extensively, others have also given him a platform. Pro-Trump outlet One America News Network has featured him as a "technical analyst" to share false information about Dominion. Lin Wood, a QAnon-supporting attorney who has aided Trump's campaign, has claimed his "IT experts" have spoken with Ron Watkins about his Dominion claims. He called Watkins a "truth-giver."

Sidney Powell, another attorney with QAnon connections who has worked with the Trump campaign's legal effort, submitted an affidavit from Ron Watkins to push his Dominion claims as part of her election lawsuits. She also gave the court an affidavit from a QAnon supporter who participated in Watkins' harassment effort targeting Dominion.

Watkins' false claims have also reached the president: Trump has on multiple occasions tweeted OAN segments featuring Ron Watkins making false election claims, and in December and early January he repeatedly retweeted Watkins.

Ron Watkins Trump tweet

Meanwhile, Ron's father appears to see a business opportunity in his son's recent fame as a voter fraud conspiracy theorist. Jim Watkins in early January promoted a new Ron Watkins T-shirt featuring his Twitter handle and the 8kun logo. It was on a merchandise site Jim Watkins is apparently involved with that sells QAnon and 8kun items.

Ron Watkins shirt

This isn't the first time Jim Watkins has tried to grift off conspiracy theories and harassment campaigns. Besides hosting a message board dedicated to "Q" on his site, he has also been an active participant in the conspiracy theory -- wearing a "Q" pin, attending QAnon events, and co-founding a QAnon super PAC that has run paid ads on 8kun. Jim Watkins also has a business relationship with the hosting company for QAnon aggregator sites that give 8kun most of its traffic. (Jim Watkins also runs a company hosting apparent child pornography domains, while 8chan/8kun users have shared child pornography on the site.)

And now QAnon has allowed the Watkinses to capitalize on their infamy to promote voter fraud conspiracy theories and exploit misinformation for their own gain.

How QAnon Began — And Became A Domestic Terror Threat

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Less than three years after it started on an anonymous far-right message board, the QAnon conspiracy theory was being praised by the president of the United States.

On August 19, a reporter asked President Donald Trump if he had anything to say to followers of QAnon. Speaking in the White House briefing room, Trump said, "I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate," adding that it was "gaining in popularity" and consisted of "people that love our country."

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QAnon Backers Predict New  Deputy Attorney General Will Arrest Trump ‘Enemies’

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Multiple influencers supporting the false QAnon conspiracy theory have praised the appointment of new Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, claiming that he will carry out mass arrests of President Donald Trump's political opponents and fulfill the conspiracy theory.

QAnon is premised on a belief that an anonymous user posting on a far-right message board and calling itself "Q" is actually a secret government official working with Trump to take down the "deep state," his perceived enemies, and a global cabal of pedophiles (of which Democrats are a part), who will ultimately be arrested and sent to face military tribunals.

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Facebook Permits Promotion Of Campaign To Ditch Face Masks En Masse

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

A campaign urging people to burn and get rid of face masks en masse on September 15 has been spreading on Facebook and Instagram, despite multiple state laws and health experts' guidance to wear them.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic has spread throughout the United States, both public officials and health experts have urged people to wear masks to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. Numerous states have also instituted mandates for people to wear masks when in public.

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Reddit Finally Bans Pro-Trump Forum After Multiple Threats Of Violence

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Reddit has finally banned the notorious subreddit "r/The_Donald," following its users and moderators repeatedly violating the platform's rules. The ban comes a year after Reddit quarantined the subreddit following Media Matters' reporting on its users issuing calls to violence, and months after they had abandoned the subreddit for their own backup site.

The subreddit, dedicated to supporting President Donald Trump, had hundreds of thousands of users and helped spread narratives and content used by Trump himself. Trump's social media director, Dan Scavino, was known to monitor the subreddit, and Trump did an "Ask Me Anything" question-and-answer session on the forum in 2016.

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Facebook And Twitter Permit Anti-Semitic Network On Their Pages

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

An anti-Semitic Telegram channel known for targeting Jews created new Facebook and Twitter accounts to cross-post its harassing content. Despite their policies on harassment and hate speech, neither Facebook nor Twitter has taken action on the new accounts, with Facebook claiming the page does not violate its policies.

The channel, as Mother Jones‘ Ali Breland wrote in September, has been compiling “an online list of Jewish people who are critical of white nationalism”  since it was created last summer. The list includes “archived tweets from individuals criticizing white supremacy, misogyny, and other types of bigotry,”  along with tweets “in which the person in question describes themselves as Jewish.”

Breland noted that the list “includes many who are not public figures, or who have only modest profiles as rank-and-file activists, journalists, or social media figures.”  Breland added that the channel had become “the fastest-growing alt-right group”  on Telegram at that time. In February, he tweeted that other white nationalist Telegram channels had forwarded the channel’s “content around the time of” a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, that white nationalists had organized around.

On February 25, the channel posted that “Operation ‘Mass Kvetching’ is underway,” and urged its supporters to “follow [it] on the following platforms,” posting links to both Facebook and Twitter accounts.

On its Facebook page, the account was already cross-posting its content targeting multiple people for harassment (Media Matters has removed and blurred out images and names from the posts). Despite explicit policies prohibiting bullying, harassment, and hate speech, Facebook wrote in response to Media Matters flagging the page that the page “was reviewed and it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.” Facebook has also recently failed to enforce its policies on harassment and extremism.

Additionally, the channel’s new Twitter page — which is also cross-posting its harassing content — comes a few months after Twitter had permanently banned another account the channel had created on the platform. That means the new account is evading a Twitter suspension — a clear violation of Twitter rules. It is also violating Twitter’s policies prohibiting “hateful conduct” and “targeted harassment.” But as of this posting, Twitter has taken no action against the account. The platform has repeatedly struggled to detect accounts evading their bans, and it continues to have a white nationalist problem.

Lara Trump Promotes Video By QAnon Conspiracist

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Lara Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law and a senior adviser to his reelection campaign, tweeted a YouTube video from one of the biggest QAnon accounts on the internet.

On February 21, Lara Trump — who also hosts an online show for the campaign — tweeted, “The best is yet to come,” along with a link to a YouTube video titled “The Best Is Yet To Come – Trump 2020.”

Lara Trump JoeM

The video was posted on YouTube by “JoeM,” who has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and is a devotee of the QAnon conspiracy theory (he co-authored a bestselling book about it). The theory has been tied to multiple violent incidents, including murder and attempted kidnapping, and it has been flagged by an FBI field office as a potential domestic terrorism threat. 

JoeM, who uses the handle StormIsUponUs on Twitter and whose “introductory video” about QAnon is often used to introduce people to the conspiracy theory, has his own ties to extremismbigotry, and harassment: Last April, the account instigated a baseless conspiracy theory that a California school fundraiser was somehow connected to former FBI Director James Comey, forcing the fundraiser to be cancelled. In May, after his Twitter account was briefly suspended, he used his Instagram account to instigate a harassment campaign against a woman. And last February, his QAnon introductory video was posted on the YouTube account of the parents of a man arrested for trying to burn down a pizzeria that was at the center of the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory.

This isn’t the first time people in Trump’s orbit — along with Trump himself — have amplified and interacted with QAnon accounts and their content.

Besides Lara Trump, other major figures who shared JoeM’s video — which has garnered more than 120,000 Facebook engagements and over 24,000 Twitter shares — included the following:

GOP’s ‘QAnon’ Conspiracy Followers Running For Congress

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Updates (1/7/20 and 1/8/20): This article has been updated with more congressional candidates. We will continue to update it as we find more congressional candidates supporting the conspiracy theory.

Multiple supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which got its start on far-right message boards, are running campaigns for Congress in 2020.

The conspiracy theory, which revolves around an anonymous account known as “Q,” started on far-right message board 4chan, later moving to fellow far-right message board 8chan, which has since relaunched as 8kun. (Beyond the QAnon conspiracy theory, 8chan/8kun has been linked to multiple instances of white supremacist terrorism, including the 2019 massacre in El Paso, TX.)

The “Q” account claimed — and the conspiracy theory’s premise — is that President Donald Trump was working with then-special counsel Robert Mueller to take down the president’s perceived enemies, the “deep state,” and pedophiles. Multiple adherents to the conspiracy theory have been tied to acts of violence, including multiple murders and an attempted kidnapping, and an FBI field office released a memo in May that listed QAnon as a potential domestic terrorism threat.

Below is a list of 2020 congressional candidates who have endorsed the conspiracy theory or promoted QAnon content.

Jo Rae Perkins (Oregon)

Jo Rae Perkins is a Republican candidate running in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District and a former chair of the Linn County Republican Party. She has repeatedly tweeted in support of QAnon and posted the QAnon slogan “Where we go one, we go all,” often abbreviated as “WWG1WGA,” on Twitter and both her personal and campaign Facebook pages. Perkins has also said she follows the “Q team.” Her activity has included pushing a “#QProof” (supposed evidence that “Q” posts are accurate), posting links on Facebook to multiple QAnon YouTube videos, and linking to a site that collects “Q” posts. She has also demanded that reporters ask Trump “the #Q,” referring to a belief among the conspiracy theory’s supporters that Trump would confirm “Q” as real if asked.

In a January 3 interview with Right Wing Watch’s Jared Holt (formerly of Media Matters) that she livestreamed and which featured a “WWG1WGA” sticker in the background, Perkins expanded upon her belief in QAnon, saying there is a “very strong probability/possibility that Q is a real group of people, military intelligence, working with President Trump” and compared the “Q” posts to secret codes used during World War II. Later in the interview, she claimed that “Q is most likely military intelligence … and they’ve been out there watching what’s been going on in our country for decades and they are partnered with President Trump to stop the corruption and to save our republic” and compared believing in “Q” to believing in Jesus Christ. Perkins also said her QAnon support is part of her campaign strategy and claimed that “there’s a lot more people that are running for political office that follow Q than are admitting to it.”

Danielle Stella (Minnesota)

Danielle Stella is a Republican candidate running in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. Stella has repeatedly posted in support of QAnon, worn QAnon apparel, and shared QAnon videos. An apparent aide for Stella told Right Wing Watch that the candidate “stands 100% behind the principles of patriotism, unity/inclusiveness (WWG1WGA!) and love for country that Qanon promotes,” although a former campaign staffer dubiously told The Daily Beast that Stella’s support for QAnon was “a ruse” to get support. Yet Stella is also a member of a small QAnon group on Telegram, where she has posted about being in a “#QArmy” and praised her “Qfamily.” Stella has also endorsed another baseless conspiracy theory originating from 4chan that accused her would-be opponent, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), of hiring a hitman to assassinate a woman. Stella was later banned from Twitter for suggesting that Omar be hung for treason.

Matthew Lusk (Florida)

Matthew Lusk is a Republican candidate currently running unopposed in the primary for Florida’s 5th Congressional District. Lusk has tweeted multiple QAnon videos and has an “issue” page on his campaign site specifically called “Q” featuring the text “who is Q.” Lusk also appeared in a video on NBC News about his support for QAnon, which he demonstrates partly by including a “Q” on the back of his campaign signs. 

Lusk has expanded upon his belief in QAnon in multiple interviews. He told the Florida Politics blog, “Q is one of my issues because it’s definitely a leak from high places.” In an interview with The Daily Beast, Lusk said that posts from “Q” are a “legitimate something” and that they are a “very articulate screening of past events, a very articulate screening of present conditions, and a somewhat prophetic divination of where the political and geopolitical ball will be bouncing next.” And in an interview with NBC News, Lusk said “Q” is “like an advanced news warning,” adding that “it might come out in the mainstream media a week or two weeks later. So I think there’s a lot of inside sources, whoever this person is.”

Matthew Lusk QAnon campaign site

DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero (California)

DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero is a Republican candidate running in California’s 12th Congressional District who has repeatedly tweeted about QAnon and the QAnon slogan, including tweeting about QAnon to a major QAnon account. In a since-deleted tweet, she also wrote that “Q is real.” In an interview discussing “Q” with The Daily Beast, Tesoriero said, “I wouldn’t say that I believed in him or the group or anything, but I do believe in some of the issues that he discusses.” She has also expressed support for the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory but declined to confirm that support to The Daily Beast.

DeAnne Lorraine Tesoriero QAnon Twitter

Rich Helms (Texas)

Rich Helms is a Republican candidate running in Texas’ 33rd Congressional District. The candidate has repeatedly tweeted the QAnon slogan, including one time directly in response to a tweet about a “Q” post, and he has also retweeted a post about his candidacy containing another slogan connected to QAnon, “#TheGreatAwakening.”

Rich Helms QAnon Twitter

Steve Von Loor (North Carolina)

Steve Von Loor is a Republican candidate running in North Carolina’s 4th Congressional District who has repeatedly tweeted the QAnon hashtag and QAnon slogan.

Steve Von Loor Twitter QAnon

Michael Bluemling (Florida)

Michael Bluemling is a Republican candidate running in Florida’s 21st Congressional District. The candidate has tweeted the hashtag “#Q” and other hashtags associated with “TheStorm,” another reference to the QAnon conspiracy theory. He has also endorsed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.

Michael Bluemling Twitter QAnon

Erin Cruz (California)

Erin Cruz is a Republican candidate running in California’s 36th Congressional District. According to NBC News, Cruz believes some of the “Q” posts are “valid information,” saying, “I think that the biggest thing with QAnon is there’s information coming out. And sometimes it is in line with what’s going on in government.” She also told NBC that she believes “there is someone out there putting information on the internet” as part of QAnon, adding that “a conspiracy theory only sounds crazy until it’s proven.”

Patrice Kimbler (California)

Patrice Kimbler is a Republican candidate also running in California’s 36th Congressional District. She has repeatedly tweeted the QAnon slogan, including quote-tweeting a major QAnon account.

Patrice Kimbler QAnon Twitter

Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia)

Marjorie Taylor Greene is a Republican candidate running in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. In 2018, she posted on Facebook about an “awesome post by Q.” She has posted the QAnon slogan on Facebook and on Twitter, the latter in response to a tweet defending the legitimacy of “Q” where she also wrote, “Trust the plan” (another catchphrase QAnon supporters use). She also has tweeted the QAnon-connected hashtag “#GreatAwakening” to far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Greene “has posted a series of tweets defending QAnon, including one” — now deleted — “encouraging her followers to message her with questions so she can ‘walk you through the whole thing.’”

Marjorie Taylor Greene QAnon

Michael Moates (Texas)

Michael Moates is a Libertarian candidate running in Texas’ 26th Congressional District. Moates, a conservative writer who has previously spread falsehoods, suggested support for QAnon in a series of since-deleted tweets in 2018, according to Right Wing Watch. Using the QAnon hashtag, Moates urged people to “keep an eye on” QAnon and wrote that his “goal in life is to ask POTUS about” it. Moates later that year was accused of sending inappropriate messages to several underage women. Moates has also since been suspended from Twitter, and he has launched another account for his campaign, violating Twitter’s ban-evasion rules.

Joe Walz (Texas)

Joe Walz is a Republican candidate running in Texas’ 22nd Congressional District. He has repeatedly tweeted the QAnon slogan.

Joe Walz QAnon Twitter

Right-Wing Sites Spread Fake News Attack On Rep. Waters

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

A fake quote from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) calling for an “illegal immigrant” to be selected for the Supreme Court is spreading on Twitter and Facebook. Multiple radio stations have also pushed the quote on air.

On June 28, a Twitter account that labeled itself as a “parody” of CNN, with the account name @CNNPoltics, tweeted, “Rep @MaxinePWaters: ‘The next Supreme Court Justice should be an illegal immigrant.” The tweet also included a fake CNN chyron saying, “Waters: SCOTUS Pick Should Be Illegal Immigrant.” Twitter has suspended the account.

Many people spread the tweet as real, including:

  • a co-anchor of Los Angeles TV station KTLA, who wrote, “What do her constituents in Los Angeles and the South Bay think about this?”
  • Daily Beast correspondent and Tablet columnist Jamie Kirchick
  • FoxNews.com contributor Stephen Miller
  • New York Post writer Kirsten Fleming, who called the quote part of Waters’ “sanity tour”
  • Bryan McGrath, a deputy director at the conservative think tank the Hudson Institute, who called Waters “the face of the left”
  • the chairman of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom

All of them subsequently deleted their tweets, but most were captured by the social media tracking app CrowdTangle. The fake quote is still spreading on Twitter, such as from right-wing social media companyAppSame, which wrote, “The Left has gone completely crazy Meet their leader @DNC Maybe a parody account doesn’t mean it not (sic) something she would say.”

The fake quote was also pushed as real by the fake news site RedStateWatcher, which pushed the debunked Pizzagate hoax in 2016, along with “The Donald” subreddit and 4chan’s “politically incorrect” forum(where a user wrote the tweet shows, “Bitch not only looks like a mudslide but thinks like one too”).

On Facebook, pages shared a photo that had the fake CNN image with the added words, “Read that again- slowly- and let the full depth of abject stupidity and desperation behind the statement, uttered on nationwide television, sink in fully….” That meme has been shared more than 78,000 times and has, in turn, also been shared on Twitter and on 4chan. Other memes with the fake quote have been shared — including from the fake news network America’s Freedom Fighters — more than 36,000 times on Facebook, and have been posted in multiple pro-Trump Facebook groups.

Multiple radio stations also shared the fake quote on-air as real. A host on Tennessee talk station WWTN-FM said the quote showed Waters was “the dumbest person ever to serve in Congress.” A host on Georgia talk station WYAY-FM said, “You’re not going to believe what Maxine Waters has just said on CNN.” And on Texas talk station KFYO-AM, a host said the quote showed Waters “couldn’t begin to pass the IQ test that [President Donald] Trump aced” and is “demented.”

similar kind of smear campaign through social media was recently aimed at Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Waters has also previously been the target of a series of fake and misleading stories.

Header image by Melissa Joskow  / Media Matters

Russians And Right-Wing Revive Pizzagate Fraud

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

 

A prominent fake news website whose Facebook page has been verified by Facebook and which has been accused by experts of being a Russian proxy has revived the debunked fake news conspiracy theory known as “Pizzagate” in a new article. The article has also been promoted by Michael Flynn Jr., who played a role in generating significant exposure for the first iteration of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory.

On November 4, YourNewsWire published an article headlined “NYPD: Hillary Clinton ‘Pedophile Sex Tape’ About To Be Released.” The article claimed that the New York Police Department had “confirmed that a ‘sickening’ pedophile sex tape featuring Hillary Clinton is about to be released to the public” that depicts “Clinton engaging in a sexual act with her aide Huma Abedin and an underage girl.” The article, which features a photo of Clinton eating pizza, cites a Right Wing Watch article about Liz Crokin, a columnist known for pushing conspiracy theories surrounding slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich and who called the October Las Vegas mass shooting a “false flag,” for the claim.

The article is a continuation of the baseless “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that Clinton and her presidential campaign were using a Washington, D.C. pizzeria to run a pedophila operation. The conspiracy theory was widely pushed by far-right media and fake news websitesincluding YourNewsWire, resulting in a gunman opening fire inside that pizzeria last December. Flynn Jr., the son of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had been a transition aide for President Donald Trump (and who could face criminal prosecutionfrom special counsel Robert Mueller), quoted a Twitter user pushing the article, writing, “Oh…” and adding, “I’ll believe it when I see it……” Flynn Jr. was fired from Trump’s transition team last December after continuing to push “Pizzagate” following the pizzeria shooting.

The YourNewsWire article, which was shared on a verified Facebook page run by YourNewsWire’s operators, had nearly 10,000 Facebook engagements and more than 4,000 Twitter shares, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, and was shared by a number of other fake news websites. The article was also being heavily pushed by Russian-linked accounts, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy.

YourNewsWire has a history of pushing fake stories, such as making up that actor Morgan Freeman called for Clinton to be jailed and that Clinton bribed Republicans in order to “destroy Trump.” Experts in the United States and European Union (EU) have reportedly accused the website of being a Russian proxy whose misinformation seems to fit Russia’s aims, such as falsely claiming that the EU lowered the age of consent to 13 and that Austria’s new chancellor had targeted billionaire George Soros.

 

Google Ads Pushing Fake News On Texas Shooting

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

 

Google is continuing to allow the monetization of fake news via its advertising network AdSense, this time surrounding the November 5 mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX. Advertising networks Revcontent and content.ad are also featuring advertisements on fake news stories about the attack.

On November 5, a gunman opened fire and killed at least 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, TX. The alleged gunman, Devin Patrick Kelly, was court martialed while in the Air Force in 2012 on charges of “assaulting his wife and child” and has been accused of stalking ex-girlfriends. Law enforcement officers are now saying that the shooting was related to “a domestic situation.”

Media Matters search found that Google’s AdSense supplied advertisements for many websites pushing the fake news that Kelly was a member of the antifascist group antifa, with many seeming to base their pieces on a fake news article from prominent fake news website YourNewsWire. Those websites included Real FarmacyUSN Politicsmyinfonews.netClear PoliticsSBVNewsRedStateWatcher, and TruthFeed.

Some of these websites that were using AdSense, such as Clear Politics and SBVNews, also carried advertisements from content.ad, while TruthFeed also featured advertisements from Revcontent. Other websites not using AdSense that pushed the baseless claim, such as Conservative FightersThe Conservative Truth, and borntoberight.com, featured advertisements from Revcontent or content.ad instead, including the YourNewsWire piece (that article went viral, drawing at least 235,000 Facebook engagementswithin almost 24 hours of the attack, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, and was shared on gun parts manufacturer Molon Labe Industries’ Facebook page).

Another false claim about the shooting came from Freedum Junkshun, a “satire” website run by a man whose made-up stories have been used by fake news websites to misinform. It claimed that the shooter “was an atheist” on the payroll of the Democratic National Committee. That article was funded via advertisements from both AdSense and content.ad. And fake news website Freedom Daily, which has repeatedly violatedAdSense’s rules against race-based incitement of hatred, published the false claim that the shooter was a Muslim convert named Samir Al-Hajeed. AdSense advertisements funded that article.

It isn’t just Google’s advertising service that is struggling with how to handle fake news; among the top Google search results of Kelly’s name following the attack were tweets and a video that also baselessly claimed he was a member of antifa. YouTube, which Google owns, also prominently featured a video pushing the false claim as one of the top results for the alleged shooter’s name.

In early November, a Google senior executive testified before Congress that the company had “taken steps” to demonetize misrepresentative websites. Yet the fact that multiple websites are using AdSense to monetize misinformation about the Texas mass shooting via AdSense signals otherwise. Indeed, AdSense, along with Revcontent and content.ad, have generally become the advertising networks of choice for those who push fake news. And this comes amid continuing criticism of Google’s inability to not feature misinformation during or after crisis events. These companies clearly have a long way to go to fix their misinformation problem.