The Leader of the QAnon Conspiracy Theory Returns

Three posts on Friday night signaled the resurfacing of a figure who used a variety of conspiracy theories to marshal support for Donald J. Trump.

#conspiracy-theories, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #rumors-and-misinformation, #watkins-ron-1987-88

Do You Know Someone Who Believes in Conspiracy Theories? We Want to Hear About It.

Share your experience if you, a friend or a family member believes or once believed in a popular conspiracy theory.

#conspiracy-theories, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #internal-open-access, #qanon, #rumors-and-misinformation, #united-states

Anne Applebaum on What Liberals Misunderstand About Authoritarianism

The writer discusses what Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism” reveals about the fragility of liberal democracy.

#audio-neutral-informative, #democracy-theory-and-philosophy, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #twilight-of-democracy-the-seductive-lure-of-the-authoritarian-state-book, #writing-and-writers

QAnon Joins Vigilantes at the Southern Border

Far-right activists are intercepting migrant children and collecting information about their families, based on an unfounded conspiracy theory that they are falling prey to sex-trafficking rings.

#arizona, #conspiracy-theories, #human-trafficking, #immigration-and-emigration, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right

J.R. Majewski, Ohio Winner, Has Expressed Fringe Views on QAnon and Jan. 6

Mr. Majewski, a surprise victor this week in Ohio, has voiced sympathy for QAnon believers and suggested that the F.B.I. drove much of the violence at the Capitol riot.

#elections-house-of-representatives, #majewski-j-r, #midterm-elections-2022, #ohio, #primaries-and-caucuses, #qanon, #republican-party

The Right’s Disney Freakout

How the company got mired in a moral panic.

#children-and-childhood, #florida, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #homosexuality-and-bisexuality, #law-and-legislation, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #rufo-christopher-f, #television, #walt-disney-company

Republican Senators Play the QAnon Game

On the dishonest questioning during Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings.

#conspiracy-theories, #cotton-tom, #cruz-ted, #graham-lindsey, #hawley-josh-d-1979, #internal-sub-only-nl, #jackson-ketanji-brown-1970, #qanon, #republican-party, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #supreme-court-us

QAnon Cheers Republican Attacks on Jackson. Democrats See a Signal.

Criticism of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s sentencing decisions emerged as a theme among Republicans — and renewed debate about the party’s stance toward QAnon.

#child-abuse-and-neglect, #conspiracy-theories, #hawley-josh-d-1979, #jackson-ketanji-brown-1970, #mandatory-sentencing, #qanon, #republican-party, #sex-crimes, #united-states-politics-and-government

Ketanji Brown Jackson Faces GOP Attacks on Race and Crime

Grilling Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court, conservative senators painted her as a jurist who had coddled criminals and embraced “woke” education.

#black-people, #child-pornography, #critical-race-theory, #cruz-ted, #jackson-ketanji-brown-1970, #qanon, #race-and-ethnicity, #republican-national-committee, #supreme-court-us, #united-states-politics-and-government

Twitch Says It Will Bar Chronic Spreaders of Misinformation

The new policy will take down channels that persistently lie about vaccines and election fraud, as well as Russian state-run media.

#amazon-com-inc, #computer-and-video-games, #computers-and-the-internet, #conspiracy-theories, #fortnite-video-game, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #qanon, #rumors-and-misinformation, #twitch-interactive-inc, #video-recordings-downloads-and-streaming

Who Is Behind QAnon? Linguistic Detectives Find Fingerprints

Using machine learning, separate teams of computer scientists identified the same two men as likely authors of messages that fueled the viral movement.

#artificial-intelligence, #computers-and-the-internet, #conspiracy-theories, #forensic-science, #furber-paul, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #watkins-ron-1987-88

A Moment for Canada’s Far Right, Still Struggling for Support

The country’s political system has made it hard for fringe groups to gain influence. But a new cause, and fund-raising across borders, could begin to fuel Canadian populists.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #otoole-erin-1973, #ottawa-ontario, #politics-and-government, #polls-and-public-opinion, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #trump-donald-j, #vaccination-and-immunization

‘Q’ Has Been Quiet, but QAnon Lives On

With the absence of a leader, the movement has transformed into more of a “choose your own adventure” conspiracy theory.

#computers-and-the-internet, #conspiracy-theories, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #politics-and-government, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #social-media, #united-states-politics-and-government

What Astroworld, the Rust Shooting and the Surfside Collapse Have In Common

From the Salem witch trials to the Astroworld disaster, conspiracy theories and reformist narratives have battled for dominance in the American consciousness. 

#accidents-and-safety, #astroworld-music-festival-stampede-2021, #computers-and-the-internet, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #occult-sciences, #philosophy, #qanon, #rust-movie, #social-media, #stampedes, #surfside-fla-building-collapse-2021

QAnon Shaman Sentenced to 41 Months for Role in Capitol Riot

Jacob Chansley, who wore a horned helmet and a fur pelt as he stormed onto the Senate floor during the Capitol riot, had earlier pleaded guilty to a single felony count.

#chansley-jacob-anthony-jake-angeli, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #united-states-politics-and-government

Facebook Employees Warned About Election Misinformation, to Little Effect

Company documents show that the social network’s employees repeatedly raised red flags about the spread of misinformation and conspiracies before and after the contested November vote.

#computers-and-the-internet, #conspiracy-theories, #corporate-social-responsibility, #facebook-inc, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #haugen-frances, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #research, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #voter-fraud-election-fraud, #zuckerberg-mark-e

U.S. Antigovernment Groups Are Influencing the French Far Right

The top French intelligence official, who is visiting Washington this week, said QAnon and other conspiracy theories were spreading to Europe.

#conspiracy-theories, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #france, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #nunez-laurent, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #terrorism, #united-states-politics-and-government

Capitol Rioter Known as QAnon Shaman Pleads Guilty

Jacob Chansley, who stormed onto the Senate floor in face paint and a horned hat, accepted a deal under which federal prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 41 to 51 months in prison.

#chansley-jacob-anthony-jake-angeli, #qanon, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #united-states-politics-and-government

Jacob Chansley, Capitol Rioter Known as QAnon Shaman, Pleads Guilty

Jacob Chansley, who stormed onto the Senate floor in face paint and a horned hat, accepted a deal under which federal prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 41 to 51 months in prison.

#chansley-jacob-anthony-jake-angeli, #qanon, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #united-states-politics-and-government

Surf Instructor Claims QAnon Made Him Kill His Children, F.B.I. Says

Matthew Taylor Coleman, 40, of Santa Barbara, Calif., abducted his 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter and took them to Mexico, the authorities said.

#california, #computers-and-the-internet, #conspiracy-theories, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #matthew-taylor-coleman, #mexico, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #santa-barbara-calif, #surfing

Leaked voting machine BIOS passwords implicate Q-friendly county clerk

A collage of newspaper headlines describing election fraud.

Enlarge / Sensitive BIOS passwords leaked by QAnon figure Ron Watkins have been linked to a Colorado County office run by a clerk who promotes “Stop the Steal” messaging. (credit: JJ Gouin / Getty Images)

Last week, Ron Watkins—conspiracy theorist, QAnon enthusiast, and former 8chan site admin—released photocopies of an installation manual for Dominion voting machines. The copied pages gave basic instructions for configuring BIOS passwords (necessary to change some system settings) and iDRAC, a standard network remote control tool (which the manual explicitly requires the administrator to disable).

The next day, Watkins released a video purporting to be from a “whistleblower” exposing Dominion’s “most egregious lie”—that Dominion can remotely administer the machines, he said. He also released several screenshots of Election Management Systems hardware his “whistleblower” had access to.

Although none of Watkins’ screenshots—which will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s ever administered enterprise-grade hardware—are as damning to the voting machines as Watkins would clearly like, they did end up causing problems for one of Watkins’ fellow travelers: county clerk Tina Peters of Mesa County, Colorado, whose office manages the machines in question.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#8chan, #biz-it, #conspiracy-theories, #dominion, #electronic-voting-machines, #policy, #qanon, #ron-watkins, #voting-fraud, #voting-machines, #weapons-grade-ignorance

Trump, Covid and the Loneliness Breaking America

Authoritarianism attracts isolated people.

#arendt-hannah, #bender-michael-c, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #frankly-we-did-win-this-election-the-inside-story-of-how-trump-lost-book, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #loneliness, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #social-conditions-and-trends, #social-media, #the-storm-is-upon-us-how-qanon-became-a-movement-cult-and-conspiracy-theory-of-everything-book, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

The Christian Right Is in Decline, and It’s Taking America With It

White evangelicals can’t tolerate becoming just another subculture.

#christians-and-christianity, #conservatism-us-politics, #evangelical-movement, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #jones-robert-p, #population, #qanon, #religion-and-belief, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #southern-baptist-convention, #united-states, #whites

Trump’s new lawsuits against social media companies are going nowhere fast

Trump’s spicy trio of lawsuits against the social media platforms that he believes wrongfully banned him have succeeded in showering the former president with a flurry of media attention, but that’s likely where the story ends.

Like Trump’s quixotic and ultimately empty quest to gut Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act during his presidency, the new lawsuits are all sound and fury with little legal substance to back them up.

The suits allege that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube violated Trump’s First Amendment rights by booting him from their platforms, but the First Amendment is intended to protect citizens from censorship by the government — not private industry. The irony that Trump himself was the uppermost figure in the federal government at the time probably won’t be lost on whoever’s lap this case lands in.

In the lawsuits, which also name Twitter and Facebook chief executives Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg as well as Google CEO Sundar Pichai (Susan Wojcicki escapes notice once again!), Trump accuses the three companies of engaging in “impermissible censorship resulting from threatened legislative action, a misguided reliance upon Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and willful participation in joint activity with federal actors.”

The suit claims that the tech companies colluded with “Democrat lawmakers,” the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci, who served in Trump’s own government at the time.

The crux of the argument is that communication between the tech companies, members of Congress and the federal government somehow transforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube into “state actors” — a leap of epic proportion:

“Defendant Twitter’s status thus rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor, and as such, Defendant is constrained by the First Amendment right to free speech in the censorship decisions it makes.”

Trump’s own Supreme Court appointee Brett Kavanaugh issued the court’s opinion on a relevant case two years ago. It examined whether a nonprofit running public access television channels in New York qualified as a “state actor” that would be subject to First Amendment constraints. The court ruled that running the public access channels didn’t transform the nonprofit into a government entity and that it retained a private entity’s rights to make editorial decisions.

“… A private entity… who opens its property for speech by others is not transformed by that fact alone into a state actor,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote in the decision.

It’s not likely that a court would decide that talking to the government or being threatened by the government somehow transform Twitter, YouTube and Facebook into state actors either.

Trump vs. Section 230 (again)

First Amendment aside — and there’s really not much of an argument there — social media platforms are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a concise snippet of law that shields them from liability not just for the user-generated content they host but for the moderation decisions they make about what content to remove.

In line with Trump’s obsessive disdain for tech’s legal shield, the lawsuits repeatedly rail against Section 230. The suits try to argue that because Congress threatened to revoke tech’s 230 protections, that forced them to ban Trump, which somehow makes social media companies part of the government and subject to First Amendment constraints.

Of course, Republican lawmakers and Trump’s own administration made frequent threats about repealing Section 230, not that it changes anything because this line of argument doesn’t make much sense anyway.

The suit also argues that Congress crafted Section 230 to intentionally censor speech that is otherwise protected by the First Amendment, ignoring that the law was born in 1996, well before ubiquitous social media, and for other purposes altogether.

For the four years of his presidency, Trump’s social media activity — his tweets in particular — informed the events of the day, both nationally and globally. While other world leaders and political figures used social media to communicate or promote their actions, Trump’s Twitter account was usually the action itself.

In the shadow of his social media bans, the former president has failed to re-establish lines of communication to the internet at large. In May, he launched a new blog, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” but the site was taken down just a month later after it failed to attract much interest.

The handful of pro-Trump alternative social platforms are still struggling with app store content moderation requirements at odds with their extreme views on free speech, but that didn’t stop Gettr, the latest, from going ahead with its own rocky launch last week.

Viewed in one light, Trump’s lawsuits are a platform too, his latest method for broadcasting himself to the online world that his transgressions eventually cut him off from. In that sense, they seem to have succeeded, but in all other senses, they won’t.

#articles, #brett-kavanaugh, #ceo, #communications-decency-act, #congress, #donald-j-trump, #donald-trump, #federal-government, #google, #government, #jack-dorsey, #mark-zuckerberg, #new-york, #president, #qanon, #section-230, #social, #social-media, #social-media-platforms, #sundar-pichai, #supreme-court, #susan-wojcicki, #tc, #the-battle-over-big-tech, #twitter

Will Christian America Withstand the Pull of QAnon?

The Southern Baptist Convention appeared more concerned with combating critical race theory than conspiracy theories. 

#baptist-churches, #christians-and-christianity, #discrimination, #greear-j-d, #haslam-bill, #litton-ed-pastor, #ministers-protestant, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #race-and-ethnicity, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #southern-baptist-convention, #stone-mike-pastor

Biden admin will share more info with online platforms on ‘front lines’ of domestic terror fight

The Biden administration is outlining new plans to combat domestic terrorism in light of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and social media companies have their own part to play.

The White House released a new national strategy on countering domestic terrorism Tuesday. The plan acknowledges the key role that online platforms play in bringing violent ideas into the mainstream, going as far as calling social media sites the “front lines” of the war on domestic terrorism.

“The widespread availability of domestic terrorist recruitment material online is a national security threat whose front lines are overwhelmingly private–sector online platforms, and we are committed to informing more effectively the escalating efforts by those platforms to secure those front lines,” the White House plan states.

The Biden administration committed to more information sharing with the tech sector to fight the tide of online extremism, part of a push to intervene well before extremists can organize violence. According to a fact sheet on the new domestic terror plan, the U.S. government will prioritize “increased information sharing with the technology sector,” specifically online platforms where extremism is incubated and organized.

“Continuing to enhance the domestic terrorism–related information offered to the private sector, especially the technology sector, will facilitate more robust efforts outside the government to counter terrorists’ abuse of Internet–based communications platforms to recruit others to engage in violence,” the White House plan states.

In remarks timed with the release of the domestic terror strategy, Attorney General Merrick Garland asserted that coordinating with the tech sector is “particularly important” for interrupting extremists who organize and recruit on online platforms and emphasized plans to share enhanced information on potential domestic terror threats.

In spite of the new initiatives, the Biden administration admits that that domestic terrorism recruitment material will inevitably remain available online, particularly on platforms that don’t prioritize its removal — like most social media platforms, prior to January 2021 — and on end-to-end encrypted apps, many of which saw an influx of users when social media companies cracked down on extremism in the U.S. earlier this year.

“Dealing with the supply is therefore necessary but not sufficient: we must address the demand too,” the White House plan states. “Today’s digital age requires an American population that can utilize essential aspects of Internet–based communications platforms while avoiding vulnerability to domestic terrorist recruitment and other harmful content.”

The Biden administration will also address vulnerability to online extremism through digital literacy programs, including “educational materials” and “skills–enhancing online games” designed to inoculate Americans against domestic extremism recruitment efforts, and presumably disinformation and misinformation more broadly.

The plan stops short of naming domestic terror elements like QAnon and the “Stop the Steal” movement specifically, though it acknowledges the range of ways domestic terror can manifest, from small informal groups to organized militias.

A report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in March observed the elevated threat to the U.S. that domestic terrorism poses in 2021, noting that domestic extremists leverage mainstream social media sites to recruit new members, organize in-person events and share materials that can lead to violence.

#attorney-general, #biden-administration, #counter-terrorism, #online-extremism, #online-platforms, #policy, #politics, #qanon, #social, #social-media, #social-media-platforms, #tc, #terrorism, #u-s-government, #united-states, #white-house

My Fellow Republicans, Stop Fearing This Dangerous and Diminished Man

Republicans must authorize an investigation of Jan. 6. Otherwise they enable Trump, feed QAnon and allow the threat of violence to continue.

#flynn-michael-t, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #republican-party, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #trump-donald-j

From Doomsday Preppers to Doomsday Plotters

Far-right movements have long dreamed of a moment that ends society as we’ve known it. Now, experts say, so-called accelerationist thinking is proliferating in ways that could destabilize democracy.

#albrecht-franco, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #germany, #neo-nazi-groups, #nordkreuz, #politics-and-government, #qanon, #race-and-ethnicity, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #terrorism, #united-states

Death of QAnon Follower at Capitol Leaves a Wake of Pain

Rosanne Boyland had never voted before 2020, but she fell prey to dark conspiracy theories, family members said. She died on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and they are still not sure why.

#boyland-rosanne-1986-2021, #conspiracy-theories, #deaths-fatalities, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #drug-abuse-and-traffic, #georgia, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #united-states-politics-and-government

QAnon Now as Popular in U.S. as Some Major Religions, Poll Suggests

Fifteen percent of Americans believe that “patriots may have to resort to violence” to restore the country’s rightful order, the poll indicated.

#conspiracy-theories, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #polls-and-public-opinion, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

Extremists Find a Financial Lifeline on Twitch

QAnon adherents and other far-right influencers are making thousands of dollars broadcasting election and vaccine conspiracy theories on the streaming site.

#amazon-com-inc, #censorship, #computers-and-the-internet, #conspiracy-theories, #corporate-social-responsibility, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #twitch-interactive-inc, #video-recordings-downloads-and-streaming

A Teacher Marched to the Capitol. When She Got Home, the Fight Began.

Kristine Hostetter was a beloved fourth-grade teacher. Then came the pandemic, the election and the Jan. 6 riot in Washington.

#black-lives-matter-movement, #california, #conservatism-us-politics, #education-k-12, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #hostetter-alan, #hostetter-kristine, #john-birch-society, #liberalism-us-politics, #orange-county-calif, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #race-and-ethnicity, #rohrabacher-dana, #san-clemente-calif, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021

One Republican’s Lonely Fight Against a Flood of Disinformation

After losing an ugly congressional race last year, Denver Riggleman is leading a charge against the conspiracy-mongering coursing through his party. He doesn’t have many allies.

#conspiracy-theories, #content-type-personal-profile, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #house-of-representatives, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #republican-party, #riggleman-denver, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #rumors-and-misinformation, #sasquatch-bigfoot, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #virginia

Why QAnon Flopped in Japan

It failed the test for conspiracy connoisseurs, and the public.

#4chan, #conspiracy-theories, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #japan, #qanon, #religious-cults, #tokyo-japan

Don’t Let QAnon Bully Congress

Allowing the U.S. government to be held hostage by political extremists is unacceptable.

#qanon, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #united-states, #united-states-politics-and-government

Capitol Police Warn of March 4 Threat Amid New QAnon Conspiracy Theories

The agency, responding to what the force called “a possible plot to breach the Capitol,” again sounded the alarm that pro-Trump conspirators may be planning an attack.

#conspiracy-theories, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-capitol-police, #united-states-politics-and-government

Reducing the spread of misinformation on social media: What would a do-over look like?

The news is awash with stories of platforms clamping down on misinformation and the angst involved in banning prominent members. But these are Band-Aids over a deeper issue — namely, that the problem of misinformation is one of our own design. Some of the core elements of how we’ve built social media platforms may inadvertently increase polarization and spread misinformation.

If we could teleport back in time to relaunch social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok with the goal of minimizing the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories from the outset … what would they look like?

This is not an academic exercise. Understanding these root causes can help us develop better prevention measures for current and future platforms.

Some of the core elements of how we’ve built social media platforms may inadvertently increase polarization and spread misinformation.

As one of the Valley’s leading behavioral science firms, we’ve helped brands like Google, Lyft and others understand human decision-making as it relates to product design. We recently collaborated with TikTok to design a new series of prompts (launched this week) to help stop the spread of potential misinformation on its platform.

The intervention successfully reduces shares of flagged content by 24%. While TikTok is unique amongst platforms, the lessons we learned there have helped shape ideas on what a social media redux could look like.

Create opt-outs

We can take much bigger swings at reducing the views of unsubstantiated content than labels or prompts.

In the experiment we launched together with TikTok, people saw an average of 1.5 flagged videos over a two-week period. Yet in our qualitative research, many users said they were on TikTok for fun; they didn’t want to see any flagged videos whatsoever. In a recent earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg also spoke of Facebook users’ tiring of hyperpartisan content.

We suggest giving people an “opt-out of flagged content” option — remove this content from their feeds entirely. To make this a true choice, this opt-out needs to be prominent, not buried somewhere users must seek it out. We suggest putting it directly in the sign-up flow for new users and adding an in-app prompt for existing users.

Shift the business model

There’s a reason false news spreads six times faster on social media than real news: Information that’s controversial, dramatic or polarizing is far more likely to grab our attention. And when algorithms are designed to maximize engagement and time spent on an app, this kind of content is heavily favored over more thoughtful, deliberative content.

The ad-based business model is at the core the problem; it’s why making progress on misinformation and polarization is so hard. One internal Facebook team tasked with looking into the issue found that, “our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness.” But the project and proposed work to address the issues was nixed by senior executives.

Essentially, this is a classic incentives problem. If business metrics that define “success” are no longer dependent on maximizing engagement/time on site, everything will change. Polarizing content will no longer need to be favored and more thoughtful discourse will be able to rise to the surface.

Design for connection

A primary part of the spread of misinformation is feeling marginalized and alone. Humans are fundamentally social creatures who look to be part of an in-group, and partisan groups frequently provide that sense of acceptance and validation.

We must therefore make it easier for people to find their authentic tribes and communities in other ways (versus those that bond over conspiracy theories).

Mark Zuckerberg says his ultimate goal with Facebook was to connect people. To be fair, in many ways Facebook has done that, at least on a surface level. But we should go deeper. Here are some ways:

We can design for more active one-on-one communication, which has been shown to increase well-being. We can also nudge offline connection. Imagine two friends are chatting on Facebook messenger or via comments on a post. How about a prompt to meet in person, when they live in the same city (post-COVID, of course)? Or if they’re not in the same city, a nudge to hop on a call or video.

In the scenario where they’re not friends and the interaction is more contentious, platforms can play a role in highlighting not only the humanity of the other person, but things one shares in common with the other. Imagine a prompt that showed, as you’re “shouting” online with someone, everything you have in common with that person.

Platforms should also disallow anonymous accounts, or at minimum encourage the use of real names. Clubhouse has good norm-setting on this: In the onboarding flow they say, “We use real names here.” Connection is based on the idea that we’re interacting with a real human. Anonymity obfuscates that.

Finally, help people reset

We should make it easy for people to get out of an algorithmic rabbit hole. YouTube has been under fire for its rabbit holes, but all social media platforms have this challenge. Once you click a video, you’re shown videos like it. This may help sometimes (getting to that perfect “how to” video sometimes requires a search), but for misinformation, this is a death march. One video on flat earth leads to another, as well as other conspiracy theories. We need to help people eject from their algorithmic destiny.

With great power comes great responsibility

More and more people now get their news from social media, and those who do are less likely to be correctly informed about important issues. It’s likely that this trend of relying on social media as an information source will continue.

Social media companies are thus in a unique position of power and have a responsibility to think deeply about the role they play in reducing the spread of misinformation. They should absolutely continue to experiment and run tests with research-informed solutions, as we did together with the TikTok team.

This work isn’t easy. We knew that going in, but we have an even deeper appreciation for this fact after working with the TikTok team. There are many smart, well-intentioned people who want to solve for the greater good. We’re deeply hopeful about our collective opportunity here to think bigger and more creatively about how to reduce misinformation, inspire connection and strengthen our collective humanity all at the same time.

#column, #facebook, #internet-culture, #mark-zuckerberg, #misinformation, #opinion, #qanon, #social, #software, #tiktok

Facebook has been helping law enforcement identify Capitol rioters

Supporters of former President Donald Trump, including Jake Angeli, a QAnon supporter known for his painted face and horned hat, enter the US Capitol on January 6.

Enlarge / Supporters of former President Donald Trump, including Jake Angeli, a QAnon supporter known for his painted face and horned hat, enter the US Capitol on January 6. (credit: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Facebook has gone out of its way to help law enforcement officials identify those who participated in the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, the company said in a Thursday conference call with reporters.

“We were appalled by the violence,” said Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of content policy. “We were monitoring the assault in real time and made appropriate referrals to law enforcement to assist their efforts to bring those responsible to account.”

She added that this “includes helping them identify people who posted photos of themselves from the scene, even after the attack was over” and that Facebook is “continuing to share more information with law enforcement in response to valid legal requests.”

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#facebook, #january-6, #law-enforcement, #policy, #qanon, #rioting

How Long Can Democracy Survive QAnon and Its Allies?

Politicians and political scientists wonder if there are electoral reforms that might blunt the lunacy.

#demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #elections-house-of-representatives, #house-of-representatives, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #republican-party, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voter-fraud-election-fraud

Liz Cheney Says G.O.P. Must Move Past Trump

Ms. Cheney, having fended off a challenge to her House leadership role, was defiant in defending her impeachment vote and called for Republicans to be “the party of truth.”

#cheney-liz, #conspiracy-theories, #greene-marjorie-taylor-1974, #house-of-representatives, #impeachment, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #republican-party, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

Spurning Calls to Resign, Liz Cheney Says G.O.P. Must Move Past Trump

Ms. Cheney, having fended off a challenge to her House leadership role, was defiant in defending her impeachment vote and called for Republicans to be “the party of truth.”

#cheney-liz, #conspiracy-theories, #greene-marjorie-taylor-1974, #house-of-representatives, #impeachment, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #republican-party, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

Michael Flynn Re-emerges Pushing QAnon, Stolen 2020 Election Lies

Recast by President Trump’s most ardent supporters as a MAGA martyr, Michael T. Flynn has embraced his role as the man who spent four years unjustly ensnared in the Russian investigation.

#conspiracy-theories, #flynn-michael-t, #martial-law, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #rumors-and-misinformation, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #trump-donald-j

QAnon Believers Are Obsessed With Hillary Clinton. She Has Thoughts.

The mass execution cult has roots in three decades of demonization.

#clinton-hillary-rodham, #conspiracy-theories, #greene-marjorie-taylor-1974, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right

Senate Intelligence Committee to Examine Antigovernment Extremists

Senator Mark Warner, the committee’s new chairman, said he hoped to lead a bipartisan investigation of the groups, their overseas ties and amplification of their message by foreign powers.

#5g-wireless-communications, #china, #cyberwarfare-and-defense, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #haines-avril-d, #office-of-the-director-of-national-intelligence, #proud-boys, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #russia, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #senate-committee-on-intelligence, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #united-states-politics-and-government, #warner-mark-r, #whistle-blowers

House punishes Republican lawmaker who promoted violent conspiracy theories

Democrats in the House voted to strip freshman Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of some of her responsibilities Thursday, citing her penchant for violent, anti-democratic and at times anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Greene has expressed support for a range of alarming conspiracies, including the belief that the 2018 Parkland school shooting that killed 17 people was a “false flag.” That belief prompted two teachers unions to call for her removal from the House Education Committee — one of her new committee assignments.

The vote on a resolution to remove Greene from her committee assignments broke along party lines, with nearly all Republicans opposing the resolution. Some of her colleagues even voted in Greene’s defense in spite of condemning her behavior in the past.

As the House moved to vote on the highly unusual resolution, the new Georgia lawmaker claimed that her embrace of QAnon was in the past.

“I never once said during my entire campaign “QAnon,’” Greene said Thursday. “I never once said any of the things that I am being accused of today during my campaign. I never said any of these things since I have been elected for Congress. These were words of the past.”

But as the Daily Beast’s Will Sommer reported, a deleted tweet from December shows Greene explicitly defending QAnon and directing blame toward the media and “big tech.”

In another recently-uncovered post from January 2019, Greene showed support for online comments calling for “a bullet to the head” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and executing FBI agents.

Greene has also shared openly racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views in Facebook videos, a track record that prompted Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to condemn her statements as “appalling” last June. More recently, McCarthy defended Greene against efforts to remove her from committees.

Greene was elected in November to represent a conservative district in northwest Georgia after her opponent Kevin Van Ausdal dropped out, citing personal reasons. Greene beat her opponent in the Republican primary in August, winning 57% of the vote.

QAnon, a dangerous once-fringe collection of conspiracy theories, was well-represented in January’s deadly Capitol riot and many photos from the day show the prevalence of QAnon symbols and sayings. In 2019, an FBI bulletin warned of QAnon’s connection to “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists.” A year later, at least one person who had espoused the same views would win a seat in Congress.

The overlap between Greene’s beliefs and those of the violent pro-Trump mob at the Capitol escalated tensions among lawmakers, many of whom feared for their lives as the assault unfolded.

A freshman representative with little apparent appetite for policy or coalition-building, Greene wasn’t likely to wield much legislative power in the House. But as QAnon and adjacent conspiracies move from the fringe to the mainstream and possibly back again — a trajectory largely dictated by the at times arbitrary decisions of social media companies — Greene’s treatment in Congress may signal what’s to come for a dangerous online movement that’s more than demonstrated its ability to spill over into real-world violence.

#congress, #conspiracy-theories, #government, #online-extremism, #qanon, #tc

House Exiles Marjorie Taylor Greene From Panels, as Republicans Rally Around Her

Democrats pressed past Republicans’ objections to remove the Georgia freshman from her two committee posts in a vote without precedent in the modern Congress.

#cheney-liz, #conspiracy-theories, #greene-marjorie-taylor-1974, #house-of-representatives, #qanon, #republican-party, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

Marjorie Taylor Greene Apologized and Got a Standing Ovation. Seriously.

Does the G.O.P. have the spine to rein in Marjorie Taylor Greene?

#cheney-liz, #conspiracy-theories, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #greene-marjorie-taylor-1974, #qanon, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #united-states-politics-and-government

McCarthy Condemns Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Comments, but Stands by Her

In a statement, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California said he “unequivocally” condemned the Georgia freshman’s violent and conspiracy-laden remarks, but declined to revoke her committee posts.

#cheney-liz, #conspiracy-theories, #democratic-party, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #greene-marjorie-taylor-1974, #house-of-representatives, #mccarthy-kevin-1965, #mcconnell-mitch, #qanon, #republican-party, #rumors-and-misinformation, #senate, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

The QAnon Delusion Has Not Loosened Its Grip

Millions of Americans continue to actively participate in multiple conspiracy theories. Why?

#conspiracy-theories, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #greene-marjorie-taylor-1974, #mcconnell-mitch, #polls-and-public-opinion, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #republican-party, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voter-fraud-election-fraud

New Democratic Ad Campaign Ties G.O.P. to QAnon

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has started a $500,000 effort on television and online portraying House Republicans as aligned with Marjorie Taylor Greene and QAnon conspiracy theories.

#conspiracy-theories, #democratic-congressional-campaign-committee, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #greene-marjorie-taylor-1974, #mitch-mcconnell, #online-advertising, #political-advertising, #qanon, #republican-party, #states-us, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government