- A QAnon harassment campaign based on a conspiracy theory boosted by President Trump led to death threats and a noose at the door of a young voting-systems contractor, according to a Georgia official.
- Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and the voting system implementation manager for Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, called the harassment “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
- Trump continues to encourage baseless voter-fraud allegations.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A harassment campaign within the QAnon conspiracy-theory movement, based on conspiracy theories boosted by President Donald Trump, has led to death threats and a noose at the door of a 20-year-old contractor for Dominion Voting Systems, a Georgia official said.
“It all gone too far. All of it,” Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and Georgia’s voting system implementation manager for Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, said in a press conference on Tuesday night. “I can’t begin to explain the level of anger I have right now over this. And every American, every Georgian, Republican and Democrat alike, should have that same level of anger.”
Believers in QAnon, a baseless far-right conspiracy theory alleging that Trump is fighting a “deep-state cabal” of pedophiles, have been among the loudest voices claiming without evidence that President-elect Joe Biden’s win was somehow “rigged.”
—Brendan Keefe (@BrendanKeefe) December 1, 2020
QAnon’s baseless voter-fraud claims have focused on Dominion Voting Systems
The QAnon community has focused its efforts to undermine the election results on Dominion Voting Systems, an election-software company that was used by several battleground states in the 2020 election. False claims that Dominion’s software was used to change votes for Trump to votes for Biden, which the company and election-security experts have categorically disputed, have continued to spread in the weeks since the November 4 election.
The harassment of the young man, a Dominion contractor whom Sterling said has been receiving death threats, began when a YouTube video purporting to show “ballot harvesting” in Georgia’s Gwinnett County circulated within the QAnon community, as Vice first reported. Insider is not including the name of the employee to prevent further harassment.
It was spread by popular voices in the QAnon sphere, including Ron Watkins, the former administrator of 8chan and 8kun, the platforms used by the anonymous “Q” figure who began QAnon. The YouTube video that Watkins shared, which was uploaded by a popular QAnon influencer called NeonRevolt, has more than 18,000 views as of Thursday afternoon.
The video actually shows nothing nefarious, though those circulating it have falsely claimed it does. A Gwinnett County spokesperson told Reuters that the video shows the Dominion technician “producing a data report on the server and saving the report to a Dominion USB thumb drive and then using a laptop to filter requested information,” as Dominion servers cannot be Excel-enabled.
Still, one man seen in the video was identified by name and his personal information was exposed on the fringe platform 4chan, Vice reported.
A search of the man’s name on Twitter yields several tweets exposing his name and work experience, many of which came from accounts with QAnon references on their profiles. Insider found that one top tweet spreading the man’s identity came from a QAnon-supporting account with 73,000 followers. The user often tweets about QAnon and calls followers “patriots,” which is what QAnon believers call themselves.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back today is this 20-year-old contractor for a voting system company just trying to do his job,” Sterling said in the press conference. “I talked to Dominion today, and they said he’s one of the better ones they got. His family is getting harassed now. There’s a noose out there with his name on it. It’s just not right.” Sterling said accompanying text on social media said that the worker should be hung for treason.
Trump has continued to boost conspiracy theories about Dominion
The president himself has continuously promoted baseless theories about Dominion. The network of Dominion theories appeared to make its way to Trump from watching the right-wing, pro-Trump One America News Network (OAN). In a tweet on November 12 published minutes after an OAN segment on the same topic, Trump falsely claimed that Dominion had “DELETED” more than one million of his votes across the US by switching votes from Trump to Biden.
The claim had already been popularized directly by QAnon. NBC News reported that 1 in 7 tweets using the hashtag “#Dominion” between November 5 and November 13 were from accounts that independently identified as QAnon supporters, according to an analysis from the misinformation nonprofit Advance Democracy.
In another OAN segment Trump shared, Watkins was interviewed by OAN as a “cyber analyst” highlighting what he believed to be election-fraud made possible by Dominion. Though OAN’s Chanel Rion framed the segment as an interview with an election-security expert, Watkins has no such experience at all. He recently told Insider that since resigning from his post at 8kun, he’s focused on his wood-working creations.
In Tuesday evening’s press conference, Sterling pleaded with Trump and congressional Republicans to put an end to their allegations, adding that people have been canvassing the home of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his wife, who has received “sexualized threats.”
“It has to stop. Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions,” Sterling said. “We need you to step up, and if you’re going to take a position of leadership, show some.”
Specifically, Sterling asked the president to “stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence,” warning that “someone’s gonna get hurt, someone’s gonna get shot, someone’s gonna get killed, and it’s not right.” There have already been several acts of violence or threats of violence related to the election results.
But, even in light of that condemnation from Sterling, Trump did not waiver.
—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2020
“Rigged Election,” Trump said, quote-tweeting a video of Sterling’s comments. “Expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia.”
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