Gab, Parler and the Radical Political Rhetoric and Movements on Social MediaJanuary 11, 20212 min read
Expert: Wayne Weiai Xu, expert on disinformation and political divisions on social media and assistant professor of communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Topic: Fringe free-speech social media platforms (e.g., Gab, Parler), radical political rhetoric and movements on social media
Available: Via phone or email
Credit: Getty Images
Wayne Weiai Xu, an expert on digital disinformation and disruptions and an assistant professor of communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is available to comment on how technology platforms and regulators deal with widespread disinformation and radical speech on social media platforms and how to rebuild Americans’ trust in mainstream media and platforms.
Xu has extensively studied the topic of fringe politics and social movements on digital platforms, and his current work explores the alliance between far-right politics and COVID-19-related conspiracies. His recent published works deal with the tension between the Antifa and the Alt-right on Twitter and partisan news outlets on Facebook.
The following quotes from Xu may be used with attribution:
“Content moderation and deplatforming political figures can backfire. While it might be a necessary step, it may further fuel the suspicion among the radical right over so-called Big Tech Censorship. Platforms and regulators should address the root cause, that is, the rising populist resentment and distrust of the establishment and elites. Such sentiment has been fueled by populist leaders, shadow political operations, 501c3 political nonprofits such as Turning Point USA. They are using influencers and astroturfing campaigns to turn non-political users into woke political machines.”
“Social media provide a space for a certain segment of the population that is feeling cultural displacement in the age of multiculturalism, globalization, and the knowledge economy. They feel their previously dominant cultural and faith identities are being threatened by the elite and hope to find counter-mainstream identities and voices online. Unfortunately, such grievance is being exploited by aspiring populist leaders.”
“Deplatforming controversial figures has another unintended consequence. Increasingly, the political right, particularly the QAnon and MAGA communities, have migrated to non-mainstream, so-called ‘free-speech’ platforms such as Parler. With the anonymity and privacy protections afforded by such platforms, it makes difficult for the general public to understand the motives of these fringe communities. And such platforms are more insular than mainstream platforms with little content moderation.”
“What makes digital disinformation so hard to tackle is the ever-evolving ideological alliance between political rights and non-political communities. My research of the Alt-Right shows the alliance between the Alt-Right (#bluelivesmatter, Proud Boys) with a fringe element of Christian Nationalism. Recent evidence also shows that spreaders of pro-Trump conspiracies are tied to the Chinese dissident communities, notably, Falun Gong, whose English-language Epoch Times has long been favored by the MAGA followers.”
More information about Xu, including additional links to his teachings and publications, can be found at https://curiositybits.cc. Contact him directly via ExpertFile to request further comment regarding the issues surrounding these issues.
Weiai (Wayne) Xu Assistant Professor of Communication and Affiliated Faculty at Computational Social Science Institute
Wayne Xu studies what he calls the "three Ds" on internet platforms: discord, distrust, and dishonesty.