A young conservative activist, John Doyle, who runs a YouTube channel called Heck Off, Commie!, was circulating a Google doc that encouraged people to head off the purported fraud in Pennsylvania and lobby state legislators “to cast their electoral votes as Republican!” The document, which listed the names and numbers of all the state’s legislators, was created on Tuesday — that is, before the president or his allies were claiming the election was being stolen in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Doyle did not respond to a request for comment, and his Twitter account, @ComradeDoyIe, was suspended on Thursday for violating the platform’s terms of service. Mark Levin, a popular conservative radio host and ardent Trump supporter, echoed Mr. Doyle’s call for Republican state legislators to disregard the outcome of the voting. In a tweet on Thursday, he wrote: “REMINDER TO THE REPUBLICAN STATE LEGISLATURES, YOU HAVE THE FINAL SAY OVER THE CHOOSING OF ELECTORS, NOT ANY BOARD OF ELECTIONS, SECRETARY OF STATE, GOVERNOR, OR EVEN COURT. YOU HAVE THE FINAL SAY.”
Dozens of other Twitter accounts pushing the hashtag #StopTheSteal were created in October and the first few days of November. The use of freshly created social media accounts to amplify a message is a common feature of disinformation campaigns.
By Wednesday, the hashtag had quickly jumped from the hard-right of the internet to mainstream Republicans. The Philadelphia Republican Party picked up the hashtag in a tweet, tagging Eric Trump, the president’s son, and Mr. Giuliani, and urging them to “get ready to #StopTheSteal and deliver Pennsylvania” to the president.
Eric Trump went even further. He posted and then quickly deleted a tweet using the hashtag on Thursday and asking, without evidence, why the F.B.I. and the Justice Department were not stepping to stop election fraud. Jeanine F. Pirro, the popular Fox News personality, tweeted a similar thought.
A day earlier, Eric Trump had posted a video purporting to show ballots that had been cast for his father in Virginia Beach, Va., being burned. City officials later said that the ballots were clearly samples and not real. But even before that, the video’s questionable provenance probably should have been a tipoff that it was fake: It came from a Twitter user who goes by the handle @Ninja_StuntZ and is connected to the troll-infested message board 8kun.