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Social media shift among Trump supporters

Posted at 6:58 AM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 11:05:27-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — As the nation awaits the house vote on impeachment, there’s a social media shift happening among Trump supporters who are turning to alternative platforms.

This is following Facebook announcing it's removing “stop the steal” content, because the phrase was used by those who participated in last week's riots at the US Capitol.

Fox 4 spoke with a Florida Gulf Coast University philosophy expert about the consequences of that shift and how it could be dangerous.

Assistant Professor of Philosophy Dr. Landon Frim said we have to first understand how algorithms are working to sort and segregate people.

He said that's happening both passively and intentionally. People are passively sorted because of ad revenue and sites serving users content they've already shown interest in. But he explained that the problem comes with the intentional way we are now seeing people sorted.

“What's happening with these new platforms, especially on the right, like Gab and more recently in the news like Parler, is that when certain people, because of their views, are kicked off or certain accounts are canceled or closed on some of the mainstream platforms like Twitter, then these more fringe platforms are places which are now intentionally designed to have a sort of political affiliation or ID. So it is important to understand that there's a move from sort of the passive way that algorithms sort people, to now an active way where these platforms are specifically welcoming people on the right and they're often on the fringe and far right,” Frim explained.

He said people who are already committed to "stop the steal" ideology and more dangerous beliefs, such as white nationalism, will hunker down into close knit groups on these platforms.

A local conservative advocate who we spoke with last week and who admitted he was among those who trespassed into the Capitol, said people are turning to these sites because their freedom of speech is being threatened.

“Countless people have been telling me that they're going to it and the biggest thing is they're saying it's against their freedom of speech,” said Brendon Leslie.

“I'm a very literal person. When you look at the phrase it says 'stop the steal.' Does it say go burn down the Capitol building, does it say to go riot? No, it doesn't. People can interpret things and have their own opinions. You can't tell people how to think or what they are meaning behind the words they are saying,” he added.

Leslie believes Facebook should instead look at “stop the steal” content on a case by case basis to decide if it's inciting violence.

Facebook also said it's continuing its ban on all US political advertising. President Trump remains suspended indefinitely from the platform.