In the week following Twitter's permanent ban of Donald Trump, media intelligence company Zignal Labs found that the spread of misinformation on the social media platform took a sharp fall.
Between 9 to 15 January, Zignal found there was a 73 percent decline in tweets about election fraud compared to the week before Trump was banned, reports The Washington Post. Along with Trump's ban, there were sweeping bans on thousands of accounts that spread QAnon conspiracies, which undoubtedly also helped to stem the flow of misinformation.
The data shows that when platforms like Twitter and Facebook decide to act against the kind of rhetoric that leads to things like deadly assaults on the U.S. Capitol Building, it can have a tangible impact on the kinds of conversations that are happening on social media. When hatred and dangerous lies are de-platformed, it can stop these movements from snowballing into real-world actions with real-world consequences.
Certain topics within election fraud like "voter fraud," "stop the steal," "illegal votes," and "shredded ballots" saw declines between 67 and 99 percent on Twitter after the account bans.
Trump and some supporters have been similarly banned on other platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, Snapchat, Spotify, and more.
Trump's ban and the ban of thousands of his followers is an important step for reining in dangerous rhetoric in the U.S. that should have happened earlier, considering the effect the ban has had on conspiratorial conversations.
Whilst it's very good news that Twitter's actions have led to the collapse in the spread of misinformation, it's clear that there needs to be a debate about who should be the ultimate authority in banning people on social media. It should not be in the hands of a small group of media titans.