Researcher reveals how far-right media is feeding viewers' post-election detachment from reality

Trump supporter voter yell
Fibonacci Blue from Minnesota, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump was furious when, on Election Night, Fox News' decision desk called Arizona for Joe Biden — and many of Trump's followers share his sense of betrayal. Trump has been urging his MAGA base to look to sources other than Fox News or Fox Business for information, and according to Renée DiResta — a technical research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory — some right-wing social media outlets are happy to tell Trump devotees what they want to hear.

After Fox News called Arizona for Biden, DiResta notes this week in an article for The Atlantic, the internet was full of anti-Fox hashtags from his supporters. And Trump devotees, according to DiResta, are also angry with Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

DiResta explains, "Throughout Election Day, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube had been cracking down on a flurry of allegations about voter fraud in Arizona; the platforms quickly applied warning labels to new posts containing false or disputed information and reduced the distribution of groups spreading them. In response, pro-Trump influencers exhorted their followers to congregate on Parler."

DiResta cites the social media app Parler as one of the right-wing outlets that has been willing to help Trump promote "baseless conspiracy theories." And she points out that for some Trump supporters, Newsmax TV and One America News have become far-right alternatives to Fox News.

"For most of Trump's term, Facebook and others had been loath to crack down on even baseless conspiracy theories, including those repeated by the president himself," DiResta explains. "Freedom of expression, the argument went, covers the right to think and say even floridly false things, which were best addressed through corrections and counter-speech. Yet the major platforms concluded that misleading theories about the election were a distinct class of misinformation because of their potential to cause significant harm to the body politic."

Other Trump-friendly outlets, DiResta observes, range from the tube sites Rumble and BitChute to the social media site Gab — which has been described as a far-right equivalent of Twitter.

"People are joining Parler today to find like-minded users to validate their own beliefs, but ultimately, some percentage will get bored and move on," DiResta argues. "That subset will ultimately drift away from the app. It's less user-friendly than Facebook, and it lacks one of the primary appeals that Twitter affords its core users: the ability to criticize people at the other end of the political spectrum. For some Trump supporters, the whole point of politics is to 'own the libs,' but on Parler, there are no libs around to own."

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