After Twitter banned Trump, election misinformation online plunged dramatically

Mr Donald Trump had used Twitter to repeatedly and falsely claim the presidential election was "rigged" and that it was "stolen" from him.
Mr Donald Trump had used Twitter to repeatedly and falsely claim the presidential election was "rigged" and that it was "stolen" from him.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES - US President Trump's permanent ban from Twitter has helped eliminate huge clouds of misinformation that were polluting social media networks, according to new research.

From Jan 9 to 15, misinformation about election fraud on social networks plummeted around 73 per cent, from 2.5 million to 688,000 posts, according to data from social analytics firm Zignal Labs, as cited by a Washington Post report.

That came after Twitter finally banned Mr Trump on Jan 8, with the company citing the risk of "further incitement of violence" after the deadly attack on the United States Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, Variety.com reported.

After Mr Trump posted a video tweet on Jan 6 telling the mob "we love you, you're very special", he also said in a tweet (which Twitter quickly removed): "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long."

Before Mr Trump was exiled from his favourite online platform, he had used Twitter to repeatedly and falsely claim the presidential election was "rigged" and that it was "stolen" from him. In the two months following the election, Twitter had appended hundreds of fact-checking labels to @realDonaldTrump's posts with lies about the 2020 election including baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.

Last Wednesday (Jan 13), Mr Trump returned to Twitter in a video posted via the official @POTUS account, complaining that his de-platforming by Twitter and others was an "unprecedented assault on free speech", but he will no longer have access to that account as of Jan 20 with President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

It is worth pointing out that Twitter's permanent suspension of @realDonaldTrump was not the sole reason for the sudden and steep drop in election denialism on the Internet. Facebook and other platforms also suspended Mr Trump's accounts, some permanently.

In addition, on Jan 12, Twitter said it had also removed more than 70,000 accounts that were "engaged in sharing harmful QAnon-associated content", referring to the bizarre pro-Trump conspiracy cult. And last Monday, Facebook said it had started to remove content with the phrase "stop the steal".

Meanwhile, a study by the Election Integrity Partnership (released before the 2020 US election) found that a group of 20 widely followed pro-Trump Twitter accounts - including Mr Trump's and Fox News host Sean Hannity's - accounted for 20 per cent of retweets about voting misinformation, per the Washington Post report.