The Social Media Cleanup Is Already Reducing Misinformaiton
January 18, 2021
Elizabeth Dwoskin & Craig Timberg report in the Washington Post that online misinformation about election fraud plunged 73 percent after several social media sites suspended President Trump and key allies last week, underscoring the power of tech companies to limit falsehoods.
The new research by the independent social media analytics firm Zignal Labs reported that conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites.
The president and his supporters also have lost accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch, Spotify, Shopify and others.
The findings, from Jan. 9 through Friday, are an early indication of how concerted actions against misinformation can make a difference.
Twitter’s ban of Trump has been particularly significant in curbing his ability to push misleading claims.
Mentions of the hashtag #FightforTrump, dropped 95 percent. #HoldTheLine and the term “March for Trump” also fell more than 95 percent.
Research by Zignal and other groups suggests that a powerful, integrated disinformation ecosystem composed of high-profile influencers, rank-and-file followers and Trump pushed millions of Americans to reject the election results.
Trump’s tweets were retweeted by supporters at a remarkable rate, giving him a virtually unmatched ability to shape conversation online.
Trump and political allies have railed for years against larger technology platforms, alleging bias against conservative voices without providing systematic proof and pushing companies to take a lighter hand in moderating content and punishing violators of policies.
Disinformation researchers consistently have found that relatively few accounts acted as “superspreaders” during the election.
The backlash by corporations was likely the result of multiple factors:
The capitol riots had a signficant impact on public opinion.
Certification of the Biden administration and a new Democrat majority in both houses of congress shifted the balance of power in Washington. Policy changes in the private sector that align with the interests of the Democrats are strategically good for business.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 is likely to see reform during the next two years. Big tech companies want to win favor with the Democrats to influence the outcomes.
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)