Following the deadly January 6 riot at the United States Capitol, President Donald Trump promoted heavily on social media, platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and others ultimately decided to ban the President.
The result? A sudden drop in the online dissemination of election disinformation.
According to a Zignal Labs study, reported by the Washington Post on Saturday, online misinformation about voter fraud plunged 73% in the week following Twitter’s decision to ban Trump on January 8.
Which means that, to the extent that the movement and associated clean-up of right-wing conspiracy accounts was aimed at curbing disinformation, the ban appears to be working. Not only has the spread of disinformation slowed, but research indicates that online discussions about the topics that motivated the Capitol Riot have also declined.
“Zignal found that the use of hashtags affiliated with the Capitol Riot also declined significantly,” the Post wrote, summarizing Zignal’s research. “Mentions of the #FightforTrump hashtag, which was deployed widely on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media services the week before the rally, have dropped 95%. #HoldTheLine and the term ‘March for Trump’ also fell more than 95%. “
The main argument against Trump’s ban was that despite conspiracy theories, defamation and disinformation that he had spent years spreading on Twitter and other platforms, as President of the United States , it was important for social media companies to allow him to communicate freely with the public. .
But that line of thinking became more tenuous in the weeks following Trump’s election defeat to Joe Biden, as the president’s posts grew increasingly obsessed with spreading election stealing lies and fomenting. of unrest, including the Jan. 6 ‘Stop the Steal’ promotion. protest that preceded the violent takeover of the Capitol.
The breaking point finally arrived in the days following the violence. Instead of unequivocally denouncing the rioters, Trump defended them, writing in a tweet he posted as law enforcement still tried to clear the Capitol on January 6: “These are the things and events that occur when a sacred election victory is so informal and viciously stripped down.
(Hours earlier, Trump had posted a tweet attacking Vice President Mike Pence even as rioters, some of them chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” were dangerously close to meeting the Vice President while he was hastily evacuated from the Senate chamber.)
Then, on January 8, Trump posted a tweet announcing that he would not be attending President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20. Twitter permanently suspended Trump’s account hours later, writing in a blog post that his inauguration tweet was interpreted online by his supporters as “an encouragement to those potentially considering acts of violence that the inauguration would be a ‘safe’ target because he will not be present.
(Facebook has so far only suspended Trump’s account until the end of his presidential term.)
Over the next eight days, Trump resorted to posting tweet-like statements through the White House press office. He characterized the initiatives of Facebook, Twitter and others as an attack on free speech, but at no time did he retract or apologize for spreading misinformation about the election. – nor did he acknowledge the fact that Biden’s victory over him was legitimate.
Trump has reportedly considered opening an account on Speak, a social media platform favored by conservatives and many far-right members for its lax approach to content moderation, where extremism flourishes.
But Amazon withdrew Talk from its web hosting service following revelations that Trump supporters used it as a forum to stage the Capitol Riot, and it’s unclear if it will ever recover. line.
Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Trump is spending his last days in the White House isolated and embittered. Turns out watching cable news isn’t as much fun when you can’t provide live commentary on it to your tens of millions of Twitter followers. Likewise, apparently, misinformation doesn’t thrive when the biggest vendors are exhausted.