On Jan. 6, 2020, America watched as our democracy was attacked. The groundbreaking Congressional hearings on the events of that day show widespread disinformation campaigns played a significant role, resulting in the deadly political violence at the Capitol.
Many of the most troubling accounts came from respected Trump administration cabinet officials and senior staff working in the White House on January 6th. We heard testimony about disinformation and conspiracy theories taking hold at the highest levels of our government. Worse, those lies led to planned violence, which was encouraged or ignored by Trump and his team.
The insurrection was plotted and planned on social media, in chat groups, and online– not on a battlefield. It was amplified by those in the highest seats of power. Reporting on the January 6 hearings states: “The West Wing became a haven for conspiracy theories about election fraud that……When the theories were debunked, [President] Trump would fall back on new ones, often plucked from far-flung corners of the internet, and laundered through pro-Trump channels until they reached the Oval Office.”
Foreign election manipulation, The Big Lie. election corruption — all these narratives started and spread online, in Facebook groups, Twitter feeds, and WhatsApp chats. Many were planted by bad actors – foreign and domestic, who want to divide us and weaken our institutions. Domestic hate groups took advantage of the disinformation to create chaos. While foreign actors like Putin may have lit the fire, domestic groups and elected leaders fanned the flames—knowing it could lead to deadly political violence.
“The potential for violence was learned or known before the onset of the violence, early enough for President Trump to have taken steps to prevent it,”Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the panel’s GOP vice chair.
In fact, the most recent testimony we have heard from the committee indicates that the former President knew the crowd was armed and prepared for violence, violence that was instigated through lies and deliberate disinformation efforts
The events of Jan. 6 demonstrate what can happen when disinformation is amplified at a national level. But we are not powerless to shut it down. We can act against disinformation in our daily lives. That’s why Community Conversations is focused on raising awareness about disinformation and how everyday Americans can stop it.
There are simple steps we can all take to spot and stop the spread of disinformation.
- Raise awareness about the threat of disinformation. Talk about it.
- Be skeptical.
- Pause before you share. Make sure it’s real before you click.
- Do your research and fact check with reputable sources.
- Do not comment on or share disinformation when you see it. This stops the spread.
- Engage only with content you want to reward and spread.
You can find more resources on spotting and stopping disinformation at our website. [https://communityconversationsforamerica.org/resources/].