Bulldozing the Public Square
The Breitbart-hosted conspiracy theory video, “America’s Frontline Doctors,” was viewed over a 12-hour period in July more than 14 million times on Facebook and shared by President Donald J. Trump on Twitter before Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube all took it down. The video posted by the alt-right site claims shutdowns are not needed, attacks Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, and advocates hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment.
Just as the Internet enhanced freedom of expression and assembly, providing tools for movements like MeToo and Black Lives Matter to organize, it has also become a vector for conspiracy theories, causing real-world harm and undermining democracy. Foreign election interference, extremist radicalization, conspiracy theory adherence, and targeted harassment have been vastly amplified by social media platforms.