Updated: January 13, 2021 10:27 PM
Created: January 13, 2021 09:20 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Last week, a mob of Trump supporters went to Washington D.C. to wreak havoc on the U.S. Capitol. The aftermath left five people dead. A large reason why so many rioters acted violently stems from election conspiracy theories that have been circulating on social media.
“It was a long time coming, unfortunately. It was something that a lot of us have been yelling from the rooftops for many, many years that was only heightened by the presence of Donald Trump,” said Dr. Joseph Flores, a UNM instructor who studies social media and propaganda.
Dr. Flores said there’s been a rise in conspiracy theories on social media, and their popularity and effect on society has only grown since the 2016 election.
“I would say that it’s different in the sense that now it seems to be actually a little bit more cohesive and a little bit more thought out,” he said.
Dr. Flores said there are two main reasons for that: their accessibility, and the fact that they can spread quickly.
Conspiracy theories can also make some people feel like they’re part of a community.
“There is research to suggest that depending on who shares something, you are much more inclined to believe it just because somebody said it,” Dr. Flores said.
Dr. Flores said misinformation is starting to reach more demographics. Some of those pieces of misinformation are also becoming more mainstream because the president and others often repeat them.
“Rudy Giuliani said, ‘We’ll have a trial by combat.’ That kind of rhetoric is taken very seriously on social media,” Dr. Flores said.
Companies have increased efforts to block posts and people who are spreading falsehoods, including President Trump. Now, many are flocking to other apps and social media sites.
“They will find a way to continue to converse, be it Parlor, or be it some other kind of website that—I can think of a few—where they already are,” said Dr. Flores.
Dr. Flores said people should be more cautious about the information they consume on social media. He also said he thinks the popularity of conspiracy theories is going to stick around for a long time.
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