Even though Donald Trump has not yet left office, his recent social media ban has offered a respite from the stream of all-caps rage that has polluted the national conversation in recent years. This welcome yet overdue Trump-muzzle has proven to be more than just a good feeling, however. Data confirms that the ban has been doing wonders to lower the spread of misinformation even as Trump has been disgracefully limping toward the finish line of the most failed presidency in American history.
Zignal Labs, a leading media intelligence company, reported that online misinformation about election fraud has plummeted a whopping 73 percent since Twitter excised Trump on January 8, two days after the deadly Capitol attack. Social media mentions about election fraud fell from 2.5 million to only 688,000 across several networks in the week following the ban, according to a report from the Washington Post.
While Twitter was Trump’s preferred mouthpiece, other social media sites including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch, Spotify, and Shopify followed suit to stop the dangerous spread of lies about a free and fair election that climaxed in violent insurrection on January 6. In addition to banning Trump, Twitter also swiftly purged over 70,000 QAnon-related accounts that were followed by many of the terrorists who attacked the Capitol, as reported earlier by the Washington Post.
The magnitude of this historic misinformation plunge in the narrow space of one week is extraordinary yet not surprising. A study released before the 2020 election by the Election Integrity Partnership revealed that only 20 pro-Trump domestic verified Twitter accounts (including @realDonaldTrump) were “repeat offenders” responsible for a disproportionate 20 percent of the “superspreading” of election lies across the network.
Tragically, Twitter and other social media companies waited until the lies turned deadly, finally cutting ties with Trump at the tail end of his failed term when it became comparatively easy to do so. However, the bans’ remarkable success on curbing misinformation reveals the extent to which this fascist and his minions relied on social media to propagate their dangerous deception while sowing division and engendering mistrust in our democracy. It is a cautionary tale that must never be forgotten, even with Trump gone from the White House.