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In 2020, Disinformation Broke the US

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In 2020, Disinformation Broke the US

Lies about science, civil rights, and the vote itself have turned Americans against one another.


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Even in a pandemic, disinformation about science and politics divides Americans.

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An “infodemic” afflicted the year 2020. You might think the pandemic would unite people, but Americans were at each other’s throats over basic scientific truths. Amid the fight, as Jane Lytvynenko reports in Buzzfeed, social media outlets profited from the viral spread of disinformation. The manipulation machine spewed lies about diseases and vaccines, about Black Lives Matter protests and the US election’s legitimacy. Disinformation’s corrosive impact isn’t going away, and no clear path for combating it seems apparent, but the problem is at least partially the responsibility of social media companies.


An “infodemic” shaped the year 2020.

The infodemic, a ubiquitous and relentless disinformation campaign, had a wide-ranging impact on people’s lives. Aggressive disinformation campaigns compromised Americans’ belief in the basic science that explains the coronavirus pandemic and the vaccination against it.

Disinformation led people to believe that their fellow citizens demonstrating against police violence in the wake of George Floyd’s murder were in fact violent anarchists. Donald Trump and his associates pushed disinformation about the American election system and the 2020 elections so relentlessly that many Americans embraced the lie that fraud riddled the final results.

Disinformation spreads from the internet’s margins into the mainstream.

A disinformation campaign often starts small and obscure – then escalates. Disinformation might begin as a video on a little-watched, marginal website, and end up on mainstream information channels, viewed by millions.

In November 2020, for example, a Philadelphia man tweeted out an untrue video in which he proclaimed that election officials banned him from observing...

About the Author

Jane Lytvynenko is a BuzzFeed News reporter.

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