Blaming social media is too easy an explanation for the terrible situation we collectively find ourselves in as a nation. According to polling this week, 7 in 10 Republicans believe Biden was not legitimately elected. For many Republican politicians, there is little incentive to challenge this false narrative: due to gerrymandering, winning their primary is equivalent to winning re-election, and no one wants to alienate 70% of their voters. Whether we “fix” Facebook or YouTube, whether or not we deplatform more QAnon folk or drive militia members into encrypted chat spaces, two more years of elected leaders repeating disinformation is going to hurt us as a society.
In general, I have been feeling lately like political disinformation on the American right is not a supply problem, but rather a demand problem. People are looking for stuff that will support what they already believe, or make them feel better about themselves for believing it. Cut off the supply of the disinformation in one place, and some new source will pop up to meet the demand.
That said, I don’t think it should be just one or the other. The fact that the demand remains consistent does not mean we should not work to reduce the supply. That is especially true for social media companies like Facebook, whose business models depend on amping up and spreading this sort of garbage as widely as possible.