After Twitter Dumped Trump, a Big Drop in Misinformation

Researchers say taking president off platform made significant dent in the spread of false claims
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2021 8:01 AM CST
After Twitter Dumped Trump, a Big Drop in Misinformation
In this Jan. 9, 2020, file photo, President Trump is seen at the White House in Washington.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

If you're wondering what effect "deplatforming"—ie, taking away someone's megaphone, especially online—has on the spread of misinformation, a recent ban is seeing some interesting results. The Washington Post reports that, per analytics firm Zignal Labs, false claims about election fraud plummeted 73% across multiple social-media sites in the week after President Trump's suspension from Twitter. The research found that, from the day after Trump's Jan. 8 suspension through Friday, mentions of election fraud fell from 2.5 million to less than 690,000. Trump's Facebook account has also been on "indefinite" hiatus, and the Media Matters for America watchdog has seen a decline in media being read and shared from Facebook pages that slant right. Trump and supporters have also had their accounts shut down on Instagram, Spotify, Snapchat, YouTube, Reddit, and other forums, CNET notes.

After Trump was locked out of Twitter, for example, the site went on to purge some 70,000 accounts tied to QAnon conspiracy theories, after which the use of certain hashtags tied to the Capitol riot—e.g., #FightForTrump, #MarchForTrump, and #HoldTheLine—also saw a considerable decline. Vox notes it's possible other factors may be in play: For instance, after Biden's victory was officially certified, people may have simply given up hope the election could be overturned and stopped talking about it. But researchers say taking away Trump's main amplifiers has indeed made a dent in slashing misinformation, at least for now. "Deplatforming, especially at the scale that occurred last week, rapidly curbs momentum and ability to reach new audiences," a misinformation expert tells the Post, though he adds that those already entrenched in such ideology may just double down on it. Trump is said to be mulling making a move to social media sites like Parler or Gab, popular with conservatives. (Read more misinformation stories.)

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