What role will social media play as Trump supporters rally and react?March 20, 20232 min read
With a potential indictment and even arrest of former President Donald Trump expected to happen sometime this week, there's serious concern about protests among a further divided American people.
As news is now shared instantaneously via social media, recent history shows how effective that platform can be, as well as how dangerous and violent the reaction and outcome can be.
Lance Hunter, PhD, associate professor in Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and the Master of Arts in Intelligence and Security Studies program at Augusta University, recently was part of two studies that show evidence linking social media to political violence, including domestic terrorism and civil conflict.
The studies included over 150 countries and covered the time frame 2000 to 2019.
“When social media is dangerous is when it increases polarization," said Hunter. "When it’s used to spread disinformation that disinformation can have a polarizing effect on citizens around the world, and that polarization is associated with political violence.”
The study concluded in 2019, but there have been instances of violence in the U.S. since then. Hunter said researchers may continue to speculate on the relationship between social media posts and the acts of domestic terrorism.
“There is a noticeable effect that social media can really influence political violence, especially if it’s used for disinformation purposes. I think maybe it’s just something to think about going forward for governments and citizens regarding how we should approach social media because I think with any type of technology, it can be used for good or for evil.”
For now, it's all eyes across multiple platforms and influential personalities to monitor the situation as the country waits for what may come.
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Hunter is an assistant professor of political science with a background in international relations. His research focuses on how terrorist attacks influence politics in democratic countries and how political decisions within countries affect conflicts worldwide.
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Lance Hunter, PhD Associate Professor of Political Science
Dr. Lance Hunter studies the connection between terrorism and political stability in democracies.