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Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories On Shootings Circulating Fast

Right-wing conspiracy theories move faster than ever from fringe to the mainstream, thanks to a misinformation infrastructure that's grown stronger over time, Axios reports. The pipeline that moves misinformation from obscure internet platforms to the mouths of sitting members of Congress "seems to be going a lost faster now" said Bryce Webster-Jackson of GroupSense, a threat intelligence firm. After the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings, several big conspiracy theories quickly took hold, with many falsely characterizing the shooter or victims to match fringe political narratives. "Shootings are particularly rife for misinformation" said Jared Holt of the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab. Bad actors capitalize on situations where "there's a big window of gaps and unknowns" to promote their own political ideology.

The decentralization of conversations across dozens of fringe online platforms, apps and messaging boards has made it easier for conspiracy theorists to source information that feeds falsehoods in a way that's hard to trace. The past two massacres show that conspiracy theories can jump directly from social platforms to mainstream conversations almost instantaneously without circulating widely on intermediate news sites. Right-wing conspiracies are often seeded on social networks like 4chan or, or private messaging apps like Telegram and Discord, and are then picked up by larger websites and news outlets, which gives them more legitimacy. Some common stories seem always to spread, and knowing which types of narratives are likely to stick gives conservative lawmakers more cover to promote such falsehoods. A lack of consistent information from law enforcement agencies has had a role in giving conspiracy theory spreaders an information void to fill. As the same narratives become more pervasive with each new massacre, it's becoming easier for tech platforms and the media to identify and debunk them.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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