Online misinformation about the U.S. election fraud plunged by as much as 73 percent the week after President Donald Trump was kicked off Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites, reports the Washington Post. There are other factors that could have contributed to that dramatic drop, including the banning of lots of accounts that peddled conspiracy theories, including those affiliated with QAnon. But, overall, the research by Zignal Labs suggests tech companies can prevent false information from spreading if they decide to take decisive action. In the week after Trump was banned from Twitter, conversations about election fraud plunged from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media platforms.
The change in tone on social media wasn’t just about election fraud, but also the hashtags that were popular among those who stormed the Capitol also plunged precipitously. “Zignal found that the use of hashtags affiliated with the Capitol riot also dipped considerably,” notes the Washington Post. “Mentions of the hashtag #FightforTrump, which was widely deployed across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media services in the week before the rally, dropped 95 percent. #HoldTheLine and the term “March for Trump” also fell more than 95 percent.” Besides the Trump ban, the appetite for this kind of talk likely also decreased after the Capitol riot.
The research by Zignal, which was carried out from Jan. 9 through Friday, shows how misinformation can quickly spread through social media accounts that share similar ideologies. That’s why, at least in the short term, the banning of Trump and the accounts of some of his staunchest allies appears to have had such a dramatic effect “What happens in the long term is still up in the air,” Kate Starbird, a disinformation researcher at the University of Washington, said. Trump returned to Twitter on Jan. 13 in a video message posted to the official White House account in which he complained about an “unprecedented assault on free speech,” adding that “what is needed now is for us to listen to one another, not to silence one another.”