The election is over, but the misinformation age is just beginning.
While President Donald Trump, who has been a major disseminator of falsehoods, lost the election to Democratic challenger Joe Biden, the allure of conspiracy theories, misleading videos and digital lies will endure.
Experts say the propagators of misinformation – ranging from nefarious foreign actors like Russia to American politicians to ordinary folks who have no idea they’re sharing falsehoods – will continue to flourish even as mainstream social media companies take a more aggressive stance against them.
“Misinformation will remain a potent force in American politics,” said Josh Pasek, a University of Michigan professor and expert on misinformation and political communication.
One key reason: With Trump out of power, his legion of supporters will be energized to circulate posts, memes and videos that undermine Biden, misinformation experts say. Still others will fall into the basic human trap of sharing, posting or commenting on misleading content that they have no idea is off base.
“The forces that have made President Trump’s misinformation such an effective strategy for him won’t go away,” said Brendan Nyhan, a Dartmouth College political scientist who has studied the issue. “The same incentives will exist for politicians, cable news networks and partisan websites to create misinformation. If anything, they’ll have a more receptive audience because negative information about a Biden administration will be even more appealing.”