KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Park University Political Science Professor Matt Harris watched rioters storm the U.S. Capitol, he was stunned but not completely surprised.
“You’ve got people feeding into their own sort of information spheres,” he said. “We’re not even reading from the same book anymore.”
Harris, like others, believes Wednesday was a culmination of misinformation that has continued to spread during recent years fueled, in part, by social media.
“We’ve always had misinformation in politics, but I think the only thing that’s different now is the speed of information and the way it travels,” he said.
Since President Trump lost his reelection bid in November, he has used his Twitter and Facebook pages to spread false information that the election was stolen through fraud.
Critics have called on social media companies to stop allowing this spread of misinformation, which some belatedly started trying to do. Twitter and Facebook, which owns Instagram, banned Trump's accounts Wednesday afternoon.
“I think the problem in our current political climate is that you have politicians who are saying the information you are seeing is fake, so people don’t really know what to believe and what not to believe,” technology expert Burton Kelso, who owns Integral Solutions, said.
After a series of inflammatory posts during the Capitol riot, Twitter temporarily locked the President’s account. Facebook followed suit, announcing Thursday that Trump's page would be disabled for the next two weeks.
“Now, you’re starting to see a shift to some of the smaller social media groups that don’t do such a good job of correcting posts like Facebook and Twitter,” Kelso said.
One of the social media groups Kelso mentioned is Parler, which NBC News recently described as “a Twitter-like social media platform that has for two years been a minor destination for conservative politicians and media figures."
The website tells users they can “speak freely and express (themselves) openly, without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for (their views).”
“People can plot and plan whatever information they want online and do it hardly without being noticed,” Kelso said. “I think, at some point, they are going to have to take action, so that misinformation is not going to be spread on social media.”