Legacy of lies, misinformation, mistrust


Following the US Capitol riots, Twitter banned President Donald Trump’s account “permanently because of the risk of further incitement to violence.”

Blocked from using his favorite tool for public communication, Trump left behind 88 million followers, some 16,000 now-deleted tweets, a legacy of disintegration and mistrust on the platform.

A CNBC analysis of Trump’s tweet during the presidency found that his most popular and frequent posts spread disinformation and mistrust. Among his most-liked tweets were lies, while the topic he posted the most frequently on was “fake news,” a weapon to defuse information.

“Trump’s primary use has been to disseminate publicity and manipulate public opinion,” said Sam Woolley, director of publicity research at the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Media Engagement. “He used Twitter to present information or hand over the positions of his opponents.”

Four of Trump’s 10 most popular tweets contained false claims related to the 2020 election results. Of his 100 most popular positions, 36 were election-related lies.

According to the analysis, 36 electoral lying posts received a collective 22.6 million likes and 3.9 million retweets, using a historical log of Trump’s posts from Trump’s Twitter archive and including any retweets from accounts other than @realDonaldrrump has not been.

“Since the November election, Trump has replaced Twitter as the main platform to spread distortion about the election,” Wooley said.

The House of Representatives is expected to arrive on Trump for the second time on Wednesday afternoon. The Democratic-led House on Monday tabled an article of impeachment, citing repeated false claims of election fraud by Trump, evidence that he ignited a rebellion in the Capitol.

While the posting of lies is a form of misinformation, Wooley said, Trump also practiced a less direct mechanism: attacks made to present information. This is most visible in Trump’s use of his favorite phrase, “fake news”, which appeared nearly 900 times in his tweet history.

“Trump uses social media and words like ‘fake news’ and ‘witch hunt’ and his power to create an illusion of popularity for ideas that really have no basis in reality,” Wooley said. “Often what it does is create a bandwagon effect to support false or misleading things, or for commonly attacked entities,” which may include health care, science, education, and government, in addition to the media.

The most common two-word phrase used in Trump’s tweet as president

1. Fake News

2. United States

3. Witch Hunt

4. White House

5. America is great

6. Total Support

7. New York

8. News Media

9. Great job

10. Great again

Kelly Bourne, executive director of the Cyber ​​Policy Center at Stumpford University, said the growth of social media from Trump and others reflected the impact on American democracy. He described broader implications, such as declining confidence in institutions, and more specific, tangible results, such as the rush of Trump supporters that disrupted a joint session of Congress that confirmed Biden’s election victory.

“There’s no question that [social media] Platforms were used “at every stage of the riot, Bourne,” to heighten the tension between these groups by actually exaggerating hostility to physically organize people into zip ties and rope Talking about bringing and where and when to go. “

Woolley agreed that last week’s events showed the power of Trump’s Internet presence outside of social media, describing how the online and offline worlds are connected.

The Trump Twitter cycle followed a now familiar pattern during his presidency: Trump tweeted to millions of followers, who further spread the messages in his post, which were then covered in the media and carried forward in public discourse , Giving Trump another chance. Comment on their opening message.

“Other Republicans and supporters have missed what he does, saying that he puts his point on Twitter, demeaning it or ignoring it,” Wooley said. “With what we’ve seen in Washington over the last several days, we can no longer deny the fact that what Trump says and say online has serious offline consequences.”

Trump spoke publicly for the first time since the riots on Tuesday, but did not take personal responsibility for the violence. In his comments, he used the same language as seen in several of his tweets, referring to impeachment as “indeed the biggest witch hunt in politics continues.”

In addition to how Trump used the tool, Bourne said that part of his Twitter legacy is that his actions eventually forced social media and tech platforms to take action against the type of content and behavior that he called Was promoted. In the past week, Google and Facebook suspended or banned Trump from their platforms, with Amazon withdrawing cloud computing support from social media app Parler due to violent content on the platform, and Twitter away from the far-fetched QA conspiracy theory Over 70,000 linked accounts suspended. .

Because of Twitter’s permanent suspension of Trump’s account, many of his tweets that had been embedded in media stories for years have disappeared, leaving a hole in the historical record of the 45th president. Private companies do not fall under the rules of government agencies to preserve documents and communications for legal and historical research.

“These tweets will no longer be available to the public and are not an institutional government account,” a Twitter spokesperson told CNBC on Wednesday. “We defer to the White House and the National Archives and Records Administration on conservation requirements. We will work with the government to help them meet their archival laws.”

The spokesperson also noted that Politwops preserves all tweets that have been deleted.

– CNBC’s Marty Steinberg and Steve Kovach contributed to this story.

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