Trump supporters online discussed civil war as inevitable and violence as a given, and bought and amplified Trump's lies that he won the election.

USA Today: Cindy L.Otis

Social media and financial platforms are taking unprecedented action after last week’s violent siege on the Capitol building, which was openly planned and promoted online. However, the reality we must contend with is that the insurrection was the result of a massive, five-year disinformation campaign waged by Trump and his supporters who have weaponized lies, conspiracies, and the reach of social media to gain and attempt to hold onto his power and to distort reality.

The false claims have been consistent, and often militaristic, from the beginning:

You can’t trust election results unless Republicans win.

Democrats and the media are our enemies.

You can only believe Donald Trump.

Be prepared to fight.

An entire ecosystem was created online over the years to parrot those talking points, through vast networks of self-proclaimed “independent news” websites, Facebook pages and groups, forums, social media influencers, and fringe platforms advertised as the place for uncensored speech. The Trump campaign went so far as to create a “Trump Army” that many, we see now, took quite literally.

A constant diet of lies and conspiracies

As a disinformation researcher, I watched and warned as messages from supporters online within the last year, especially, increasingly discussed civil war or a second revolution as inevitable and violence and death as a given.

In the months ahead of the 2020 election, the Trump campaign went full-throttle on the lies about election tampering. When the day came, his supporters dutifully amplified any and all conspiracies on social media. The campaign then used those very same social media posts as evidence in its entirely unsuccessful legal campaign to overturn the results, even though by all accounts the election was safe and secure.

His disinformation campaign has worked. A Quinnipiac University poll from December found 77% of Republicans believed there was widespread voter fraud. In statements made by many of those who have been arrested for participating in Wednesday’s attempted insurrection, they have made it clear: The president told them to come.

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