Gab instead of Twitter, MeWe over Facebook, Telegram for messaging and Discord for insiders -- banned from mainstream platforms, US conspiracy and supremacist movements, many of which support Donald Trump, have shifted to networks that are more confidential, and harder to regulate.

After Facebook, Twitter ban, Trump fans and extremists turn elsewhere

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by Julie JAMMOT

Gab instead of Twitter, MeWe over Facebook, Telegram for messaging and Discord for insiders — banned from mainstream platforms, US conspiracy and supremacist movements, many of which support Donald Trump, have shifted to networks that are more confidential, and harder to regulate.

“The most extreme Trump supporters were already on alternative platforms,” said Nick Backovic, a researcher at Logically.AI, a company specializing in digital disinformation.

“The fact that Facebook and Twitter took so long to (ban them) allowed influencers to rebuild conversation and groups almost seamlessly.”

After the deadly January 6 attack in Washington, when hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol, the major social networks took action against the organizations involved, such as the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and Proud Boys.

Facebook stepped up its purges of accounts linked to armed movements — nearly 900 accounts in total were shut down. Twitter has permanently banned Trump and shuttered 70,000 accounts affiliated with QAnon, a conspiracy theory that claims the former president is engaged in a battle against a global cult of elite Satan-worshipping pedophiles.

“Deplatforming works,” said Jim Steyer, president of the organization Common Sense Media. “Now that you look at Trump not being on Twitter, he lost his big speaker, his amplification microphone to the world.”

– Anti-vax –
But millions of fervent extremists and conspiracy theorists refuse to back down, according to experts who fear that censorship will unite individuals who are otherwise very different.

“Look at the makeup of your QAnon, you have folks that would traditionally join militias. And you also have some traditional Republicans, you have your health and wellness yoga instructors and soccer moms,” said Alex Goldenberg, an analyst at the research center Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI).

“There was quite a bit of difference between these conspiracy communities and traditional Nazi communities or white supremacist communities. But it seems like in the face of censorship, they’re starting to meld together in the same communities, because that’s really the only place left for them to go,” he said.

Disappointed followers are banding together under other banners, particularly the anti-vaccine movement. On the encrypted messaging platform Telegram, groups of tens of thousands of Trump supporters share false rumors about “depopulation vaccines,” in between insults against President Joe Biden or migrants.

These vehement exchanges in uncharted corners of the internet could be similar, in the eyes of authorities, to the conversations and rants that occur in bars or around the family table.

But while exclusion from major platforms has limited extremist movements’ large-scale recruitment capacity, embers smolder under the ashes.

At the end of January, for instance, a group of protesters interrupted Covid-19 vaccinations in a Los Angeles stadium, one of the country’s largest dedicated sites.

But the need to regulate alternative platforms comes up hard against moral and practical constraints. The limits of freedom of expression are the subject of heated debate in the United States.

– Digital ‘pollution’ –
Parler, a Twitter alternative favored by conservatives, found itself booted offline for several weeks, shut out of the internet by Google, Apple and Amazon because it violated their rules on moderating content that incited violence.

But the platform came back online in mid-February.

Gab and MeWe, which resemble Facebook, saw their popularity explode in the wake of the January 6 attack. According to Goldenberg, the platforms are mostly used by people who need to express their frustration.

“There wasn’t a pandemic in 2020. The flu was weaponized to destroy the economy and steal the election (from Trump),” insisted Gab user ILoveJesusChrist123, commenting on a statement by the former president posted to the platform.

Telegram is more conducive to action, via private groups protected by encryption. Firearm aficionados, on the other hand, interact on the forum MyMilitia.com.

But where Gab’s founders don’t hide their links to QAnon, MeWe and Telegram say they could go without any association with conspiracy theorists.

Both networks have made efforts to moderate postings, but they lack the necessary resources.

“We have to think of the current movement like pollution. These groups grew in power and influence because they were able to operate freely on Facebook and Twitter,” said Emerson Brooking, a specialist in extremists and disinformation at the Atlantic Council think tank.

He recommends competing social networks find a way to share moderating teams and digital resources.

The government should also intervene, says the NCRI’s John Farmer: “The government has the responsibility… to treat those platforms the way, for example, essential things like water and electricity and broadcast media used to be treated as a public trust, and therefore subject to reasonable regulation.”

Agence France-Presse

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Ridiculous! Locsin frowns at botched gov’t plan to vaccinate ‘influencers’ first

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. did not minced word in expressing his opposition over the botched plan of the government to vaccinate some “influencers” to boost public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.

In a tweet, Locsin, a former lawmaker, said the plan is “ridiculous” and the government should instead give the vaccine jabs to the most vulnerable and poor.

“Ridiculous. One man’s influencer is another’s fool. Forget it. Give it to the vulnerable. And poor,” Locsin wrote.

TWEET:

Government spokesman Harry earlier revealed that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease came up with a list of “influencers” that included him, other government officials, as well as media personalities and celebrities to take the anti-coronavirus shots.

But the interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group rejected the proposal, saying that the vaccines should go to medical frontliners.

Wow mali! Robredo LOLs over erroneous tag as doctor vaccinated vs COVID-19

Vice President Leni Robredo used the facepalm emoji in a social media post to express her exasperation after being mistakenly tagged as a doctor who received Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine.

In a March 2 Facebook post, Robredo denied she’s the doctor in photos making the rounds online. The pictures showed a woman wearing a face mask getting the Sinovac jab.

Critics have ridiculed the pictures since the woman was wearing a long sleeved blouse, implying she couldn’t have received the vaccine because her arm wasn’t exposed.

“This is ridiculously funny [woozy face emoji]. Hindi po ako yan [woman facepalming emoji],” Robredo said.

“Ayoko na sanang patulan pero ang daming nagpapadala ng mga screenshots. Kung hindi kayo busy, pa report nalang please [smiling face with sunglasses emoji],” she added.

As a postscript, Robredo apologized to the woman in the photo, whom she found out was Dr. Flordeliza Grana, a pediatric surgeon at the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center (ARMMC).

Witnesses to the vaccination have posted photos of Grana showing her blouse had slits, which made the vaccination possible.

“Sorry, Dra. Nadamay ka pa tuloy,” the Vice President said.

Twitter to boot users who persist with Covid-19 lies

Twitter said Monday it will start labeling misleading tweets about Covid-19 vaccines and boot users who persist in spreading such misinformation.

The one-to-many messaging service introduced a “strike system” that will gradually escalate to a permanent ban after the fifth offending tweet.

“We believe the strike system will help to educate the public on our policies and further reduce the spread of potentially harmful and misleading information on Twitter,” the San Francisco-based company said in a blog post.

“Particularly for repeated moderate and high-severity violations of our rules.”

Twitter users will be notified when a tweet is labeled as misleading or needs to be removed for breaking the platform’s rules, earning a strike, according to the company.

The second and third strikes will each result in the violating account being blocked for 12 hours.

With a fourth violation, an account will be sidelined for seven days. A fifth strike will get accounts permanently suspended, Twitter said.

Twitter late last year began calling on users to remove dangerously misleading Covid-19 claims, including suggestions that vaccines are used to harm or control people.

The service also targeted baseless claims about adverse effects of vaccines or questioning the reality of the pandemic.

Since then, Twitter has removed more than 8,400 tweets and notified some 11.5 million accounts worldwide about violations of its Covid-19 information rules.

The strike system is similar to what Twitter applies to election-related misinformation, which led to former US president Donald Trump being permanently banned for repeated violations, including language that the platform said could incite violence and questioning the integrity of the voting process.

Covid-19 vaccination campaigns are taking place in many countries in an effort to keep people healthy and return to pre-pandemic lifestyles.

YouTube and Facebook are among the online platforms that have taken steps to fight the spread of lies about the pandemic and vaccines.

gc/to

© Agence France-Presse

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