Twitter suspended the account of former US President Donald Trump permanently after the bloody riots in the Capitol on January 6, due to its fear of further incitement to violence, after months of questioning the results of the presidential election that was won by Joe Biden.
Since then, misleading and misleading allegations about US political affairs have receded, a tendency that Twitter and Facebook, which also banned Trump but may backtrack on their decision, seek to show their merit in it.
With Trump silenced and Biden relatively shy in the media and the absence of any elections in sight, Americans are focusing on economic recovery and launching vaccines against Covid-19 without fully engaging in politics as they were in 2020.
Experts said the decline in political lies was more due to a shift in the news cycle than to a fundamental change in how people spread inaccurate information.
But “the single most important element was the exclusion of Donald Trump from media platforms,” said Russell Moorehead, co-author of “Many People Say,” a title that refers to one of Trump’s most famous expressions when he begins to promote his unproven theories.
Moorhead told Agence France-Presse that the order “removed a daily storm of disinformation from the political environment”.
He added, “Not being bombed (by the media) helps people’s immune systems against disinformation to reset themselves and recover.”
But this effect will likely be temporary in an online environment where news is a source of disinformation.
For example, vaccine conspiracy theories have blossomed in 2021.
“The government’s work at its best is not amusing,” Moorehead said. The Biden administration is determined not to be amusing. However, we can expect the volume of misinformation to increase when we approach the elections. ”
Trump had more than 88 million followers when his Twitter account was suspended.
Besides his Facebook posts, his Twitter feeds were his primary means of making allegations without evidence that election fraud had cost him a second term. He lost more than 60 cases before the courts.
Researchers are currently analyzing the effects of election and embargo disinformation on Trump, but an early study in December showed that gentle red flags describing his tweets as containing unconfirmed information did not prevent their sharing.
In fact, those tweets have tended to spread longer and farther, possibly reflecting the loyalty of Trump supporters.
Only strong warnings of false and misleading tweets prevented them from being shared.
“The tremendous source of disinformation in 2020 has to do with the integrity of this election,” said Joshua Tucker, a professor of political science and an expert in data science and social media at New York University.
“We have this strange situation where two-thirds of Republicans still believe the election was rigged,” he added. The misinformation remained of interest in the two-and-a-half-month interval between November and the inauguration because there was an unanswered question about who will be president on January 21.
“This question became less interesting after January 21,” he said.
A social network for Trump?
But the conspiracy theories did not stop.
After Biden’s inauguration, the Q-Anon movement of the American extreme right claimed that Trump would return to power on March 4, prompting the government to take steps to secure the defense of Washington, DC.
That day passed history without any events, which further marginalized the movement.
Other studies highlight why people continue to share inaccurate information.
Researchers said earlier this month that Americans share lies on social media because they simply don’t care to know if the content is accurate or not.
For Tucker, Biden’s assumption of power and the dismissal of dozens of court cases led to fewer people being convinced that his exclusion from social media was a threat to freedom of expression.
“One of the benefits of a social network is the ability to communicate with your friends,” he said, referring to Facebook.
“People say they’re leaving, but it’s really difficult to break the influence of these networks,” he said.
Without Twitter and Facebook, few lackluster television interviews have shed light on Trump’s relative isolation, though aides to the former president say he may launch his own social media platform to help his return.
“Trump is excited to start new things if he thinks he can make money,” Tucker said. But there are a lot of reasons why people are active on social platforms other than politics. ”
“TikTok or Club House goes to the entire American market,” he said. A platform linked to Trump means that many people will not approach it. ”
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