March 6, 2021

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US election misinformation ‘decreased by 73%’ after Donald Trump’s social media suspension

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US election fraud misinformation has fallen by 73 per cent following the suspension of Donald Trump and key allies from Twitter and other social media platforms, a new study has found.

Conversations related to electoral fraud decreased from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 between 9 January and 15 January, according to analytics firm Zignal Labs.

Facebook and Instagram announced the outgoing US President would be blocked from using their services on 7 January after using them to “incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government”, adding that he would be prevented from accessing his accounts until the transition of power to Joe Biden has been completed.

Twitter announced it was permanently banning Mr Trump’s personal account on 8 January, following a 12-hour ban after the storming of the US Capitol by his supporters, which he had initially failed to condemn.

Discussions curtailed

Use of hashtags related to the riot, including #FightforTrump, #HoldTheLine and #MarchforTrump, decreased by 95 per cent, after widespread usage in the week before the protestors stormed the Capitol building.

FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, a Trump supporter participates in a rally in Washington. Online supporters of Trump are scattering to smaller social media platforms, fleeing what they say is unfair treatment by Facebook, Twitter and other big tech firms looking to squelch misinformation and threats of violence. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Online supporters of Mr Trump are scattering to smaller social media platforms, fleeing what they say is unfair treatment by Facebook, Twitter and other big tech firms (Photo: AP)

Both Facebook and Twitter confirmed they had suspended and removed accounts and content they fear could fuel civil uprising last week ahead of Mr Biden’s swearing-in on 20 January.

Facebook said on 11 January it was working to remove content containing the phrase “stop the steal”, the online campaign backing Mr Trump’s baseless assertion the Democrats stole the Presidency from the Republicans.

The following day Twitter announced it had suspended more than 70,000 accounts primarily dedicated to sharing content linked to far-right conspiracy theory group QAnon, supporters of which believe a secret society of paedophiles run by high-profile celebrities and government officials is plotting against Mr Trump, who they say is leading a covert crackdown on the group.

The accounts had shared “harmful QAnon-associated content” at a significant scale and were primarily dedicated to the propagation of the conspiracy across the platform, Twitter confirmed.

‘De-platforming works’

While QAnon phrases and hashtags have declined in usage over the past week, mentions of the conspiracy and its anonymous leader Q have increased by 15 per cent, which the Washington Post attributed to wider discussion around the insurrection.

“Bottom line is that 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, told the newspaper.

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“That said, it also has the tendency to harden the views of those already engaged in the spread of that type of false information.”

A separate study from the Election Integrity Partnership found that just 20 Twitter accounts, including Mr Trump’s @realDonaldTrump, were responsible for one-fifth of the retweets around voting misinformation.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 01, 2020 an illustration picture shows social media application logo from Parler displayed on a smartphone with its website in the background in Arlington, Virginia. - Apple on January 9, 2021, followed Google and removed the Parler app from its mobile store for allowing "threats of violence," after the deadly attack on the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Apple and Google have removed the Parler app from their app stores for allowing “threats of violence” (Photo: AFP)

Mr Trump appeared to use the official President of the United States Twitter account shortly after his personal account was blocked to announce tentative plans of setting up his own social media platform in the future.

“We have been negotiating with various other sites and will have an announcement soon, while we also look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future,” he tweeted, before the messages were swiftly removed.

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Parler, a free-speech Twitter alternative popular with Mr Trump’s supporters, was suspended by its web host Amazon on 10 January but appeared to be online again on Sunday.

John Matze, Parler’s chief executive, posted a message dated 16 January reading: “Hello world, is this thing on?”, suggesting the site has found a new hosting platform.

However, the platform is still unavailable to download from Apple and Google’s respective app stores, both of which suspended Parler citing its failure to police posts that incite violence and lawless action.

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