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Experts explain how disinformation online helped fuel the attack on the Capitol

Poynter – How did we get here?: “The world changed last week after rioters infiltrated the U.S. Capitol building and disrupted our legislative and democratic process. It was an event most people did not see coming, but others have worried about for months, if not years. Disinformation and misinformation researchers, online content verification analysts and beat reporters who monitor the darkest corners of the internet have watched the spread of conspiracy theories online and their accelerated move to the mainstream in 2020. But for the average American, it can be more difficult to make the connection between disinformation online and its tangible, direct impact on real life. There are very few examples of such a direct connection in the U.S. The most famous is the QAnon-fueled “pizzagate” incident in December 2016. Abroad, there are more examples, like journalists who are fighting disinformation in the Philippines threatened with jail time and misinformation leading to a mob killing in India. Here in the U.S., how do you explain exactly how conspiracy theories online led to events like we saw at the Capitol last week? That’s what I asked a group of preeminent disinformation and misinformation experts to explain, in the simplest terms, and to unpack why this is so important. What follows is their responses last week, in their own words, lightly edited for clarity and brevity…”

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