Online Election Misinformation Plunges After Trump Twitter Ban

"De-platforming" of misinformation "superspreaders" has had a huge impact.

Online misinformation about the presidential election plunged an astonishing 73% after Twitter and other social media networks either banned or suspended Donald Trump and key supporters, according to new data analysis.

Baseless claims of election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week after Trump was banned by Twitter, according to research by the San Francisco-based analytics firm Zignal Labs, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

The use of hashtags linked to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack also plunged, with “Fight for Trump,” “Hold The Line,” and “March for Trump” all falling 95%, Zignal found.

The findings, covering social media comments from Jan. 9 through Friday, underscores the synergistic effect of falsehoods on social media as misinformation is repeated and amplified if it’s not quickly checked, the Post noted.

“De-platforming, especially at the scale that occurred last week, rapidly curbs momentum and ability to reach new audiences,” Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which tracks misinformation, told the newspaper.

Twitter permanently banned Trump Jan. 8 in the wake of the deadly Capitol attack by his supporters. It quickly also suspended accounts of key Trump supporters spewing baseless QAnon conspiracy theories, including those of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and fringe attorney Sidney Powell. Some 70,000 accounts peddling QAnon conspiracies were soon shut down.

YouTube banned a regular podcast by right-wing former White House strategist Steve Bannon. And Amazon dropped right-wing social media network Parler from its web-hosting service, booting the platform offline.

Targeted action against particular suspected “superspreaders” of misinformation is likely to be particularly effective. A study released in October by the Election Integrity Partnership found that just 20 conservative, pro-Trump Twitter accounts — including the president’s own @realDonaldTrump — were the original source of an astonishing one-fifth of retweets pushing misleading voting information.

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