Gab instead of Twitter, MeWe via Facebook, Telegram for messaging and Discord for insiders – banned by major platforms, conspiratorial and supremacist movements in the US, many of which support Donald Trump, have moved to networks that are more confidential and more difficult for regulation.
“The most extreme Trump supporters were already on alternative platforms, “said Nick Bachkovic, a researcher at Logical.AI, a company that specializes in digital disinformation.
Following the deadly January 6 attack in Washington, D.C., when hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol, major social networks took action against participating organizations such as the Guardians of the Oath, Three Percent and the Proud Boys.
Facebook has stepped up its purge of armed movement accounts, with nearly 900 accounts closed. Twitter permanently banned Trump and closed 70,000 accounts associated with QAnon, a conspiracy theory that claims that the former president is involved in a battle against a global cult of elite pedophiles who worship Satan.
“Displacement works,” said Jim Steyer, president of Common Sense Media. “Now, when you look at Trump who isn’t on Twitter, he’s lost his big speaker and his amplifying microphone to the world.”
But millions of ardent extremists and conspiracy theorists are refusing to back down, according to experts who fear censorship will unite people who are otherwise very different.
“Look at the makeup on your QAnon, you have people who would traditionally join the militia. And you also have some traditional Republicans, you have your yoga health and wellness instructors and football mothers,” said Alex Goldenberg, an analyst at the Network Research Center. Institute for Infection Research (NCRI).
“There was quite a difference between these conspiratorial communities and traditional Nazi communities or white supreme communities. But it seems that in the face of censorship, they are starting to merge into the same communities because that’s really the only place left to go.” he said.
Disappointed followers unite under other flags, especially the vaccine movement. On the encrypted messaging platform Telegram, groups of tens of thousands of Trump supporters share false rumors of “depopulation vaccines” between insults to president Joe Biden or migrants.
These furious exchanges in unexplored corners of the Internet can be similar in the eyes of the authorities to the conversations and scandals that take place in bars or around the family table.
But while exclusion from major platforms limits opportunities for large-scale extremist movements, the heat is smoldering under the ashes.
In late January, for example, a group of protesters cut him off COVID-19 vaccinations at a stadium in Los Angeles, one of the largest specialized sites in the country.
But the need to regulate alternative platforms faces difficult moral and practical constraints. The limits of freedom of expression are the subject of heated debate in the United States.
Talk, an alternative to Twitter favored by conservatives, turned out to be offline for a few weeks, disconnected from the Google,, Apple, and Amazon because it violates their rules for moderating content that incites violence.
But the platform returned online in mid-February.
I gave and Facebook-like MeWe saw their popularity explode after the January 6 attack. According to Goldenberg, platforms are mostly used by people who need to express their frustration.
“There was no pandemic in 2020. The flu was armed to destroy the economy and steal the election (from Trump),” Gab user ILoveJesusChrist123 insisted, commenting on a statement from the former president posted on the platform.
Telegram is more conducive to action through private groups protected by encryption. Fans of firearms, on the other hand, interact in the MyMilitia.com forum.
But where the founders of Gab make no secret of their ties to QAnon, MeWe and Telegram, they say they could go without any connection to conspiracy theorists.
Both networks have made efforts to moderate the publications, but lack the necessary resources.
“We need to think of the current movement as pollution. These groups grew in power and influence because they had the opportunity to work freely on Facebook and Twitter,” said Emerson Brooking, an extremist and disinformation specialist at the Atlantic Council’s think tank.
He recommends competing social networks find a way to share moderation teams and digital resources.
The government must also intervene, says John Farmer of NCRI: “The government has a responsibility … to treat these platforms in a way that, for example, important things like water and electricity and the broadcast media have been treated as public trust and therefore subject to reasonable regulation. . “
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