Deplatforming Trump Is Already Having a Huge Impact

A new report finds election misinformation online has fallen 73 percent since the president’s ban from Twitter.

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It’s been nine days of relative calm since Twitter cut off a major spigot of election misinformation from President Donald Trump’s account—setting off a chain of suspensions across Facebook, Snapchat, Twitch, and other platforms that affected the president, his allies, and others who stoked violence in the lead up to the January 6 riot at the US Capitol.

Now, a new report reveals just how consequential these platforms’ decision has been since @realDonaldTrump went quiet. Since January 8, when Twitter banned Trump, online misinformation about election fraud has plummeted 73 percent, according to research from analytics firm Zignal Labs, the Washington Post reported on Saturday. Hashtags and terms associated with the Capitol riot—including #FightforTrump, #HoldTheLine, and “March for Trump”—fell 95 percent or more.

While phrases used by believers in QAnon also dropped, mentions of QAnon and “Q” grew slightly—perhaps due to media coverage of the conspiracy’s role in Capitol riot, according to the Washington Post. 

Zignal Labs’ findings underline the central role played by Trump, his allies, and influential followers in spreading lies about the election results on social media, where eager supporters of the president retweeted his message at high rates and news media picked up each new Trump tweet as fodder for another article. Last year, Twitter tried to curb the misinformation pushed by Trump by adding notices to the president’s tweets when they violated the platform’s policies against spreading election misinformation. On other 240-character presidential missives claiming he won the election in a “landslide,” or accusing the governors of Georgia and Arizona of letting the election be “stolen,” Twitter prevented people from liking or retweeting the messages without attaching their own comment. 

Now, it looks like the social media giants have found something that actually works to stop the spread of lies—at least for now. (Facebook, which says Trump’s account is suspended “indefinitely,” has left the door open to reinstating his account after the end of his term.) While Trump has continued to release tweet-like statements through the White House Office of the Press Secretary, he has yet to acknowledge his loss of the election to President-elect Joe Biden.

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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