Misinformation about elections has been circulating since about April, long before the official polling date. Much of these statements came from President Trump himself.

One cold November morning in Connecticut, Ms. Candy, 49, entered her bedroom after finishing her night shift. Settling into bed, she turns on her phone and walks around social media.

A QAnon flag appeared in the protest against the election results
A QAnon flag appeared in the protest against the election results

But the night of November 3 was more special because it was election day and the outcome was still unclear. Curled up in the blanket, Mrs. Candy intently watched the news while waiting for her favorite candidate to speak up.

When the clock was just past midnight, the candidate that Candy supported posted on social networks. “We are winning big, but they are trying to steal this victory. We will never let them do that. Voting is not possible after the ballot box is closed! ”.

The above content was posted on Twitter by President Donald Trump at midnight November 4.

Mrs. Candy agreed with the tweet. She was disappointed with the results of that night. So when a close friend invited her to join a Facebook group called Stop the Steal (roughly translated: Prevent the robbery of victory), she immediately accepted.

"The Democrats have said they will do anything to get rid of Trump. They are successful," Candy told the BBC.

Ms. Candy actually believes fraud happened, because this information has flooded her Facebook for months. And a lot of people had access to the same content as Mrs. Candy's for a long time until election day.

Tweet and democracy

The BBC's anti-misinformation group discovered misleading claims about election fraud that have been circulated continuously by influential social media accounts for months.

And that information comes from the head of the White House. President Trump first posted the allegations on Twitter in April.

From that point to the election, Mr. Trump mentioned it more than 70 times.

This is not a new topic. Mr Trump made charges of election fraud in 2016, after the race he won.

This time, however, evidence shows that more people read statements saying the election was manipulated on social networks than in 2016. Ms. Candy is just one of them. Hundreds of thousands of people have joined groups on Facebook, which were created to "Stop the Steal".

BBC research shows that accounts of famous conservatives are tools to amplify fraud allegations.

The Origin of #StoptheSteal

On election night, the keyword #StoptheSteal became popular on Twitter after many misleading videos about the election went viral.

In one video, observers are not allowed into the polling place in Philadelphia. This video reached nearly 2 million views on Twitter and was shared by many Trump supporters.

One of the Facebook groups of Trump supporters was formed after the polling day
One of the Facebook groups of Trump supporters was formed after the polling day

The man is the main character in the video and is asked by officials to wait outside. One woman said his supervisory license was unavailable at some polling stations.

This video is completely real. But it turns out that the woman is wrong because of not knowing the law. Observers are typically only allowed to enter certain polling stations in Philadelphia. This year, however, they will be able to travel to many different stations.

After that, the matter was resolved and the man was allowed inside. The officials also apologized to the observer.

However, the wrong reception is not reflected in the video being shared at breakneck speed online.

The slogan "Stop the Steal" was later used in many large groups on Facebook. These groups have attracted more than a million members since election night.

Many groups were removed after members posted a call for the use of violence and "civil war".

Misleading videos and allegations of electoral fraud are shared abundantly in these communities. They appear on the social media of people like Ms. Candy.

Feather pens, burn ballots and the dead vote

“Others said these groups were created to cause riots across the country. This is not true, ”Ms. Candy angrily told the BBC because her Facebook group Stop the Steal was deleted.

Ms. Candy said she and the other members did not want to use violence. They just want to follow the truth.

"People are just exposing the scams they saw in the election," she said.

Though she doesn't always believe what she reads, Facebook is where Candy updates her election information. She also admitted spending too much time on this social network.

Ms. Candy also told the BBC the fraudulent allegations she heard, such as voters being given a series of special pens to make their votes fail, or multiple votes being thrown away or torn.

These allegations are fabricated, inaccurate or without evidence, the BBC said.

In the Facebook post, a man said he threw the votes for Mr. Trump in Wisconsin. As it turns out, he lives in Detroit, Michigan.

The Facebook user then told the BBC that he was just a butcher and had nothing to do with counting votes. That post was just a joke.

Conspiracy theory is rampant

In this election, a series of conspiracy theories emerged that everything was manipulated, suspicious and not as it seemed.

Syracuse University professor Whitney Phillips says the QAnon conspiracy theory partly explains why election rumors have spread so quickly.

QAnon believers believe Mr. Trump is having a secret fight against Satan pedophiles.

“Newspapers and commentators often focus on the pedophile element that QAnon releases. But underneath that is the belief about the underground state, ”making Trump supporters suspicious of everything, Ms. Phillips said.

And Mrs. Phillips's greatest fear of the consequences of conspiracy theories was not violence. She doesn't think people like Candy will go to the streets to riot over fake news online.

Instead, Ms. Phillips and other experts worry that American beliefs in democracy will be eroded.