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Arizona Senators Huddling With QAnon Figures On 2020 Election ‘Audit’

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

As Arizona conducts an audit of ballots in Maricopa County rooted in baseless conspiracy theories about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, it appears the evidence underpinning that effort and much of the work to generate support for it has come from two QAnon followers, Liz Harris and Bobby Piton.

Both Harris and Piton have frequently bragged about working with Arizona senators and audit officials -- in one case, even livestreaming a supposed meeting with Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) to discuss their findings -- but their support of the election audit is grounded in widely debunked claims of voter fraud, many of which stem from the same "Stop the Steal" allegations that the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

Simply put: Arizona's election audit has a QAnon problem.

Harris And Piton's Role In Arizona Audit

Harris and Piton have both managed to place themselves in roles of influence as two of the main promoters of the Arizona election fraud conspiracy theory, working behind the scenes with state senators and audit officials. The Arizona Republic recently reported on Harris and Piton as two of the key figures involved in the election audit.

Harris is head of a "non-partisan" "grassroots canvass effort" to prove that rampant voter fraud exists in the state's most populous county (it doesn't). The group claims, using data tabulated by Piton, to have uncovered mass voter fraud during the 2020 election.

Harris ran for the Arizona House of Representatives's District 17 seat in 2020 but lost the general election. Much of her time is now dedicated to voter fraud canvassing efforts, while she commonly livestreams multiple videos per day related to the Arizona audit on YouTube and Facebook.

Piton is a managing partner at a financial planning and investment advisory firm in Illinois, whose website claims he "has read well in excess of a million pages over his career and has extensively studied physics, quantum mechanics, mathematics, economics, trading, portfolio construction, model development, asset valuation, and alpha generation to develop and refine his methodology."

It seems that Harris and Piton have a relationship with Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the company conducting the audit. Logan recently came under fire for peddling "Stop the Steal" and other election fraud conspiracy theories on his personal Twitter account before it was deleted.

On April 11, Piton posted on the far-right platform Gab promising to provide his supposed Maricopa election fraud findings "to the person who won the bid to perform the audit," which would be Logan and Cyber Ninjas. Piton later confirmed to The Daily Beast that Logan "asked him for his assistance" in the election audit, where he was working "in an unofficial capacity." Piton also prayed a rosary on YouTube for Harris, Logan, and all Arizona "patriots."

Harris claimed to have met Logan "multiple times," and there is additional evidence to suggest that Harris and Logan have been in communication about the audit. According to a May 12 newsletter from Arizona Capitol Reports, Logan boosted Harris' campaign with the hashtag "#PhantomSleeperVoters," a reference to conspiracy theories about fraudulent ballots cast by nonexistent voters, before the deactivation of his Twitter account.

On February 28, Harris uploaded photos of herself with former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, two of the right-wing, pro-Trump millionaires funding the Arizona election audit, as well as Sidney Powell, the former Trump campaign attorney and conspiracy theorist who attempted to overturn the 2020 presidential election. In the comments under the photos, Harris wrote, "Arizona hold on to your hats… The storm has just begun!" ("The storm" is a key phrase in the QAnon conspiracy theory.) Harris noted that this meeting occurred in Arizona but did not provide other specifics.

Harris has bragged in an April 25 livestream about sharing her canvassing data with Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann, who has been supportive of the audit. She also said senators were lauding her canvassing efforts and relayed that audit officials were supposedly going to incorporate her work "into this deep-dive forensic audit."

At one point, Piton livestreamed what appears to be a private Zoom meeting about the election audit between Harris, Rep. Andy Biggs, members of the Arizona Senate, and himself. This means that state Senate members and a sitting U.S. congressman were seemingly consulting with Harris and Piton about the audit and baseless allegations of election fraud. In the same livestream, Piton told his viewers that he had been asked to help with the election audit.

"One of the individuals that may be winning this bid to do the work has contacted me a few weeks back," Piton said. "I did tell Liz I thought they would be contacting me, or somebody would. And they asked me if I would look at the data and I said that I would definitely be helping in one way, shape, or form."

Given Piton's other claims about contact with audit officials, this is most likely another reference to Logan.

On January 19, Piton posted what appears to be a birthday card from Trump and "two Patriots" working in the White House, at least one of whom appears to be from the National Security Council. This is particularly significant given Piton's unofficial role in the Arizona election audit; the post also claims that Piton has been "communicating some of my findings with" those administration officials.

In an April 2 Facebook post, Piton bragged about signing affidavits for "both Lin Wood and Sidney Powell regarding PA data back in mid December."

Piton and Harris worked together to attempt to prove potential voter fraud abnormalities. According to Piton, he provided Harris with "a sample size of over 95,000 voter registrations that he forecast would have problems of the approximately 4,300,000 registered voters who are on the voter rolls"; Harris then "randomly selected names on those lists and had volunteers go to work in determining how many of these registered voters had issues." This formed the basis for their election fraud claims.

Harris' group started the "Crime of the Century" project, a website dedicated to exposing supposed voter fraud in Arizona. It includes an "Election Integrity Arizona" page that contains Harris' "initial findings and analysis of the 2020 General Election in Maricopa and Pima counties conducted by a citizens' non-partisan grassroots project." The Arizona Republic reported that Harris' initially claimed her "group was helping with the Senate's audit, but she couldn't say on what part because of a nondisclosure agreement. Harris later said she doesn't know what her involvement may or may not be."

The Arizona audit isn't the first brush Harris and Piton have had with promoting misinformation about election integrity. Harris also testified at Rudy Giuliani's Arizona election fraud "hearing" in November, with Piton appearing as an expert witness to claim "that his opinion, from reviewing Arizona voter data, was that between 120,000 and 306,000 ballots were cast by 'fake people.'"

Harris And Piton Appear To Follow QAnon Conspiracy

Both Harris and Piton have posted content and slogans affiliated with the QAnon conspiracy theory. Followers of QAnon led the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and believe that Trump will conduct mass arrests and secret military tribunals to prosecute "deep state" elites.

Harris' social media presence suggests that she subscribes to the QAnon conspiracy theory. Her Facebook account contains QAnon videos, a "WWG1WGA" shirt (an abbreviation of the QAnon slogan "Where we go one, we go all"), and QAnon-affiliated posts.

As for Piton, when The Daily Beast first reported on his unofficial involvement in the Arizona audit in late April, he said that "he didn't know much about QAnon." But his social media tells a different story. Posts explicitly supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory, and even a Q "drop" -- the term for messages from the anonymous figure at the center of the conspiracy theory -- are scattered throughout his public Facebook page.

For example, on August 2020, Piton wrote a post in support of the "#SaveTheChildren" QAnon movement, calling the Democratic Party the "DemoNcrat Party." "This party is PURE EVIL," wrote Piton. The image he shared with this post also contained the QAnon slogan "WWG1WGA."

In a post following the January 6 insurrection, Piton claimed to have never "been part of any 'Q movement'" and downplayed his support as merely liking "some of their phrases."

Less than a month later, Piton posted a photo of former National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael S. Rogers along with references to QAnon. "Admiral Rogers… come on down… you are the lucky number 1… 7 on the Truth is Right!!!" wrote Piton. (Q is the 17th letter in the alphabet and is popularly used to refer to "Q.")

"Q...uestion for you," he continued, once again referencing Q.

In November 2019, Piton shared a QAnon primer video on Facebook, writing: "Keep an open mind… even if all of this isn't 100% accurate, it is something worth thinking about!"

On April 25, Piton and Harris were both interviewed on the QAnon outlet Patriots' Soapbox. During the livestream, Josh Barnett, a QAnon House candidate who lost a race to represent Arizona's 7th Congressional District in 2020 and is running again for the state's 6th district in 2022, bragged that Arizona senators "saw Liz's numbers" and "saw Bobby's data" and "that's when things started changing" and they began backing the audit.

Harris and Piton's involvement in the Arizona election audit is more than concerning -- if their claims of working with audit officials and Arizona senators are true, it means that an attempt to overturn Arizona's election results has been quietly influenced by two QAnon followers working from within.

TikTok Promoting Far-Right Conspiracy Theories To Unwitting Young Users

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A number of seemingly harmless conspiracy theory TikTok accounts appear to be peddling dangerous misinformation to their unknowing audience. Even worse, TikTok's recommendation algorithm appears to encourage users to follow accounts that push similar extremist misinformation.

While these accounts may look benign or silly on the surface, a deeper dive reveals a darker truth: They're also disseminating far-right conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy TikTok, also known as "ConspiracyTok," is a community that regularly discusses conspiracy theories. Because of the massive size of the community and popularity of the content, discussion topics widely vary. Some accounts are dedicated to documenting alleged proof of extraterrestrial life; others solely post flat earth conspiracy theories.

Research published in 2014 by the University of Chicago found that about "half of the American public consistently endorses at least one conspiracy theory." Conspiracy theories have been (and most likely always will be) popular, but not every conspiracy theory is built the same -- and some have the potential to present material harm to their subscribers.

TikTok Encouraging Users Onto Far-Right Accounts

Beyond the innate popularity of conspiracy theories, TikTok's account recommendation algorithm (which is tailored to the "interests" or "connections" of an individual user) makes it easier for users to be pulled into a world of radical content. In one instance, when a user follows a seemingly harmless flat earth account, they get prompts to follow a slew of accounts pushing anti-vaxx misinformation, QAnon-related theories, COVID-19 denial, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. This pattern repeats when further following TikTok's account recommendations.

The Camouflage

A user curious about conspiracy theories runs the risk of inadvertently getting sucked into a far more malicious rabbit hole, which is why seemingly harmless conspiracy theory accounts posting far-right conspiracy narratives is uniquely dangerous.

For example, "Conscious Content" is an account with over 11,300 followers and an innocuous bio that reads, "Learn and inspire!" Some of its first videos are about Atlantis, TV show predictions, and the "amazing intelligence of mushrooms." However, a closer examination of the profile reveals that the creator also reposts clips in support of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and believes that Jeffrey Epstein was an Israeli spy.

This is not an isolated example, and in fact seems to be a pattern among other popular conspiracy theory accounts.

Another user, "jeff.speaks.facts" has over 157,500 followers and over 2.3 million likes. Their bio reads "Jesus is Lord and Savior" and the account appears to push conspiracy theories about celebrities. Yet again, a slightly closer look reveals that they have pushed the wildly anti-Semitic Rothschild conspiracy theory and received over 24,800 likes on that single video.

Similarly, "we.are.the.cure," an account with over 31,900 followers, frames itself as a spirituality account -- pushing conspiracy theories through a religious lense. However, mixed in is a video pushing the Rothschild conspiracy theory with a picture of what appears to be the devil above the name. The caption of the video encourages users to tag someone who "doesn't know this." The account also uploaded a 12-part video series about the Illuminati and its "secret plans for the world."

Some Dangerous Conspiracy Theories On ConspiracyTok

Some accounts that appear to focus on niche conspiracy theories or spiritual enlightenment are also posting dangerous COVID-19 misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories, deceiving unsuspecting followers.

Misinformation about adrenochrome (a substance QAnon followers believe is harvested from the blood of children and then consumed by "global elites") appears to be a popular piece of misinformation circulating in conspiracy theory communities.

  • "ConspiracyRebels" has a profile picture of a triangle and eye, commonly associated with the Illuminati, and many of the account's latest posts are about ancient aliens. Yet, just days earlier the same account posted a videopurporting to show "Adrenochrome" with the caption, "They Are Lying To Us."
  • "Jabarr," another conspiracy theory account with over 17,200 followers and bio reading "Knowledge is Power. Knowledge is truth" also posts about adrenochrome.
  • "Deep Down The Rabbit Hole," an account that claims to focus on "health" and "spirituality" and has over 7,500 followers posted a video about adrenochrome. The account also uses the QAnon-affiliated hashtags "#thestormisuponus," "#deepstate," and "#cannibalism."
  • Infinite.energy, an account with over 127,500 followers and over 1.6 million likes, presents itself as a spirituality account, posting videos about "creating your own reality" and "how to manifest." A deeper dive shows that the account has promoted conspiracy theories about the New World Order and has used the hashtag "Q."

COVID-19 misinformation widely circulating on TikTok is a documented problem, and an issue that the platform has promised to aggressively combat. Yet, harmful anti-vaccination and COVID-19 misinformation routinely circulate in conspiracy theory spaces.

  • "This shot will rearrange your DNA. They've planned this for one hundred years, it is the mark of the beast," says ember_inside_me1, a conspiracy theory account with the Illuminati eye icon as their profile picture. The account has over 27,500 followers.
  • One account called "TruthSeeker1111" with the bio "Truths, yoga, self inquiry" seems to be a spirituality and enlightenment account. Yet, the account is also peppered with anti-vaccination and COVID-19 denial videos.
  • Another conspiracy theory account, "Opened Eyes," claims to "aid spiritual growth" in other users and has over 15,500 followers. Many of their posts preach enlightenment, but scattered in their feed is a variety of COVID-19 misinformation. "You probably won't be getting the vaccine…right? Educate people why…" reads overlaid text.

TikTok Is Failing Its Young Users

By not diligently moderating extremist content on its own platform, TikTok is allowing for the rapid spread of far-right misinformation to an audience of young users. All of the extremist content identified in this report is supposedly prohibited by TikTok, but remains widely circulated.

MyPillow Guy Is Kingpin Of Disinformation On Election and Virus

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A new video from MyPillow CEO and Trump supporter Mike Lindell that's filled with election falsehoods is spreading on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube, even though each platform has a policy prohibiting this kind of misinformation.

Lindell has been a leading voice in promoting dangerous conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election (and bankrolling the proliferation of this lie) across right-wing media and social media.

Twitter permanently suspended Lindell for peddling election misinformation. Lindell then attempted to use his corporate MyPillow account to evade Twitter's ban; that account was also permanently suspended.

Lindell's Facebook and Instagram accounts are both active and full of election and COVID-19 misinformation. In fact, Lindell has access to multiple accounts for himself and his company. On Facebook, he has a personal account, a professional page, and a MyPillow corporate page. On Instagram, he has a verified personal account and a MyPillow account.

Even though former President Donald Trump's multiple attempts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election failed in courts, over 70% of likely Republican voters question the election results. Meanwhile, his supporters continue to push baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. Lindell is one of Trump's most vocal supporters to promote unsubstantiated election fraud claims and conspiracy theories, and he recently released a film that The New York Times called a "disinfomercial." In the video, titled "Absolute Proof," Lindell spent over two hours falsely claiming that Trump won the election, making wild allegations of fraud that have no basis in reality, and railing against "cancel culture."

Following the release of Lindell's video on February 5, YouTube and Vimeo removed copies for violating each platform's election integrity policies, but additional versions of the film are still being uploaded to YouTube. Facebook and Twitter have both labeled posts sharing the film as misinformation and reduced its distribution, with Facebook confirming that the "video has been rated false by one of Facebook's third-party fact-checkers so it's been labeled and its distribution is being reduced." But Media Matters has still found active posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that have no label, and TikTok has not taken any action against posts with the video, even though the platform claimed on February 3 that it was taking new steps to crack down on misinformation.

Since before the election, social media platforms have claimed that they are trying to stop the spread of election misinformation, but these platforms have failed to adequately implement or consistently enforce related policies. For example, Facebook took minimal action against election misinformation from Trump and his allies on its platforms, allowing users to organize and promote"Stop the Steal" events, such as the January 6 rally that led to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. Media Matters and others have documented similar failures of other platforms, such as Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.

The limited actions of social media platforms has allowed Lindell's conspiracy-laden video to spread across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.

Facebook and Instagram

Election misinformation policy: We will attach an informational label to content that seeks to delegitimize the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods, for example, by claiming that lawful methods of voting will lead to fraud.

"Absolute Proof" is the latest example of Facebook being incapable or unwilling to consistently enforce its policies. Facebook confirmed that the video violates its policy and has labeled Lindell's posts linking to the film on both Facebook and Instagram as containing false information. But Media Matters has found Facebook and Instagram posts that are not labeled, including posts with links to versions of the video hosted on other websites and alternative platforms, such as Gab and Rumble. These posts are also circulating within private Facebook groups, which have been moredifficult for Facebook to moderate and for researchers and journalists trying to hold Facebook accountable to track.

Notable examples of Instagram posts with Lindell's film include:

Twitter

Election misinformation policy: We will label or remove false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election or other civic process. This includes but is not limited to: disputed claims that could undermine faith in the process itself, such as unverified information about election rigging, ballot tampering, vote tallying, or certification of election results.

Versions of Lindell's film are also spreading on Twitter. The platform labeled an OAN tweet promoting "Absolute Proof" with a disclaimer: "This claim of election fraud is disputed, and this Tweet can't be replied to, Retweeted, or liked due to a risk of violence."

However, this standard of policy enforcement is not consistently applied to all clips of the video. The Twitter hashtag "#AbsoluteProof" displays tweets containing links to the full-length film, as well as unlabeled video clips.

Right Side Broadcasting Network also tweeted a link to the full film multiple times, but Twitter has not applied a label or restrictions on them.

TikTok

Election misinformation policy: Our Community Guidelines prohibit misinformation that could cause harm to our community or the larger public, including content that misleads people about elections or other civic processes, content distributed by disinformation campaigns, and health misinformation.

Even though it violates TikTok's election misinformation policy, "Absolute Proof" is swiftly spreading on the platform. The "Absolute Proof" hashtag on TikTok already has nearly half a million views, and all of the top videos promote Lindell's video.

Some TikTok creators are directing users to external websites to view the film in its entirety while others are uploading it in sections.

"Look what I got. … Apparently they've been taking down this documentary, so I figured I'd snag it," said one user. "I'll post some goodies that I find. And yeah, take that, big tech." This video has over 190,000 views and the account has over 57,000 followers.

YouTube

Election misinformation policy: Don't post content on YouTube if it fits any of the descriptions noted below.
Presidential Election Integrity: Content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches changed the outcome of any past U.S. presidential election (Note: this applies to elections in the United States only). For the U.S. 2020 presidential election, this applies to content uploaded on or after December 9, 2020.

YouTube removed Lindell's video for violating its policies, but at the time of publication, there are many additional uploads still on YouTube. An advanced Google search for YouTube videos using the phrase "watch absolute proof" uploaded between February 5 and February 8 returned over 270 results.

There also appears to be a coordinated YouTube spam campaign centered around the Lindell film. All of the top results featured a series of screenshots from the film with overlaid text instructing users to click the "link" below to watch. The text slightly varied with each video, but the format and messaging appear uniform. These videos each have thousands of views.

TikTok Enabling Spread Of Election Conspiracy Disinformation

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Video-sharing social media network TikTok has largely been responsive to removing specific instances of misinformation reported on its platform -- but has not taken sufficient action against accounts that repeatedly peddle election-related lies. As a result, the platform appears to be struggling to control the overall spread of election and voting conspiracy theories at a critical time when ballots are still being counted and the American people need clarity.

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Patreon Banned QAnon — But These Platforms Still Churn Money For Its Creators

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Patreon finally banned creators advancing QAnon misinformation from its platform. Now, those same creators are using SubscribeStar, PayPal, and GoFundMe to monetize the violence-linked conspiracy theory, despite the fact that their content appears to violate these platforms' terms of use as well.

The QAnon conspiracy theory is centered around claims that President Donald Trump is secretly fighting against members of the "deep state" and "pedophiles," who will supposedly be rounded up and executed soon. These threats and calls for violence targeting Trump's political opponents are often wildly anti-Semitic. This unfounded conspiracy theory promoting imminent violence against the president's enemies has been classified by the FBI as a domestic terror threat and has been directly linked to multiple killings, a kidnapping, and even terrorism.

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QAnon Migrating To Other Web Platforms After YouTube Ban

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

QAnon followers are jumping to other platforms following YouTube's slow crackdown on content pushing the conspiracy theory. Media Matters has identified four major platforms -- Spotify, Vimeo, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts -- where QAnon content is flourishing. These platforms must follow other tech companies' lead and commit to swiftly banning all QAnon content; anything short of that will only further enable the spread of this inherently dangerous conspiracy theory.

Following YouTube's decision to ban QAnon content from the platform, discussion about where to find major accounts supporting the conspiracy theory surfaced in a private QAnon Facebook group which is still active, despite Facebook's promise to remove QAnon content from its platform as well. One user decried "youtube censorship," suggesting, "try Vimeo it's a decent site." Another wrote, "X22 is on Spotify as well," referring to a popular QAnon account recently banned from YouTube.

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In Wake Of Kenosha Murders, Right-Wing Media Hype Vigilante Violence

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

An armed individual shot three people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last night -- killing two and seriously injuring the third -- amid an uprising following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man. The suspected shooter has now been identified as a 17-year-old who reportedly "considered himself a militia member trying to protect life and property." Even before these details of the August 25 vigilante shooting were known, figures across the right-wing media ecosystem began hyping the violence, defending the alleged shooter, and using the deadly incident to fearmonger about activists and "the left."

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