As President Biden promotes unity, divisiveness on social media continues | KOB 4

As President Biden promotes unity, divisiveness on social media continues

Tommy Lopez
Updated: January 20, 2021 10:24 PM
Created: January 20, 2021 09:43 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As a new presidential administration moves into the White House, it won't mark the end of online misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Dr. Joseph Flores, a UNM instructor who studies social media, said divisiveness and misleading information is still heavily present on social media—even during President Biden’s inauguration. 

“So it kind of felt like, OK, it did feel a little more quiet, but there are certainly areas in which that’s still happening, and it’s pretty fervent up until the inauguration, even now, post inauguration,” Dr. Flores said. 

“I don’t know if it’s completely less divisive,” he added.

According to a study from Zignal Labs, there was a 73% decline of misinformation about election fraud since former President Trump was banned from using social media sites. 

Online conspiracy theories were major motivation for pro-Trump extremists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6

Researchers said some people who believe them are now rethinking their stances, but certain social media hashtags—including ones used by followers of the QAnon conspiracy—were still very active Wednesday. 

Four years ago, there were plenty of emotions and reactions to former President Trump’s election victory, Flores said. Some social media experts agree that Trump only continued to fan the flames of division on social media over the course of his presidency.

“As far as Trump’s legacy going to be laid out on social media, I think he knew what he was doing,” Flores said. “I don’t think it was lost on him the advantages that social media gave him, and I think that’s why he was so prolific at it.” 

Some political experts say Joe Biden’s presidency may seem much slower compared to the last four years. Regardless, Dr. Flores said hate on social media won’t die down entirely. 

“Those things were there before Biden. Those things are going to be there after Biden. Those things were there before Trump. Those things are going to be there after Trump,” he said.

Dr. Flores attributes that to the rise in new social media sites that are attracting far-right extremists. However, there will likely be less overall engagement on those platforms.

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