Post-January 6th deplatforming reduced the reach of misinformation on Twitter

Stefan D. McCabe, Diogo Ferrari, Jon Green, David M. J. Lazer, Kevin M. Esterling
630, pages132–140 (2024)
June 5, 2024


The social media platforms of the twenty-first century have an enormous role in regulating speech in the USA and worldwide1. However, there has been little research on platform-wide interventions on speech2,3. Here we evaluate the effect of the decision by Twitter to suddenly deplatform 70,000 misinformation traffickers in response to the violence at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 (a series of events commonly known as and referred to here as ‘January 6th’). Using a panel of more than 500,000 active Twitter users4,5 and natural experimental designs6,7, we evaluate the effects of this intervention on the circulation of misinformation on Twitter. We show that the intervention reduced circulation of misinformation by the deplatformed users as well as by those who followed the deplatformed users, though we cannot identify the magnitude of the causal estimates owing to the co-occurrence of the deplatforming intervention with the events surrounding January 6th. We also find that many of the misinformation traffickers who were not deplatformed left Twitter following the intervention. The results inform the historical record surrounding the insurrection, a momentous event in US history, and indicate the capacity of social media platforms to control the circulation of misinformation, and more generally to regulate public discourse.

Related publications