Show an ad over header. AMP

Election reality fails to pop GOP's online filter bubble

The Trump administration's fight to question the election's outcome is providing a massive field test of the effectiveness of online echo chambers and filter bubbles.

The state of play: So far, the evidence from the Trump universe shows partisan delusion winning out over objective reality.

By the numbers: Some 70% of Republicans now believe the election was not free and fair, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll out Tuesday.

  • That belief may be fast on its way to becoming GOP orthodoxy. A full 86% of Trump voters polled Nov. 8 to 10 didn’t believe Joe Biden had legitimately won, the Economist and YouGov found.

Catch up quick: "Filter bubbles" and "echo chambers" are both names for the idea that partisans use the internet to create preferred alternate versions of truth, tuning in to strident voices on their side and ignoring contradictory information.

  • Social networks and cable news networks show users material that aligns with their worldviews, and users in turn seek out public figures and communities to reinforce those views.
  • Algorithms supercharge this self-segregation, learning what people like and serving up more of it.

Why it matters: If millions of citizens finish the year believing — without proof or even evidence — that the rightful leader of the nation has been deposed in a coup, the U.S. could face long-term instability and a deepening crisis of legitimacy.

What's happening: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other, smaller platforms are awash in counter-factual claims that President Trump won the election.

  • These claims are based on unsupported allegations of voter fraud and purported evidence such as increased voter turnout among Democrats and mail-in ballots skewing strongly Democratic after Trump spent months discouraging voting by mail.
  • They have the imprimatur of legitimacy as figures from Trump and his family to Sen. Ted Cruz to top GOP officials embrace and promote them.
  • The platforms have worked to limit election-related misinformation by labeling false or premature claims, but the enforcement often lags the spread of lies, and the companies can only go so far in trying to shut down a political argument pursued by millions of individuals.
  • Facebook and Google, for instance, have extended post-election political ad blackouts, but that has no impact on the continued spread of misinformation through non-paid posts.

Reality check: Joe Biden's margin of victory in decisive states is too wide to be explained by fraud, which all independent observers, domestic and international, agree is rare and small-scale in the U.S.

  • Trump's legal team, administration, media surrogates and allies in Congress have all failed to produce any evidence of their extraordinary claim that pervasive, unprecedented and undetected fraud swung the election for Biden.

The other side: Just as Trump's loss took many of his supporters by surprise, ultimately driving them further into their filter bubbles, so were many Democrats caught off guard by the narrowness of the tally in many states, Trump's expansion of his vote count since 2016, and Republicans' strong showing in many down-ballot races.

  • And there are certainly plenty of committed liberals who since 2016 have seen Russia behind every corner, treating everyone they disagree with online as a Russian bot or troll.

The catch: There's a clear asymmetry in the volume of misinformation on either side and the extent to which liberals' and conservatives' filter bubbles reflect a break from reality.

Between the lines: Platforms are focused on limiting the supply of misinformation, but we're living in a world where there's extraordinary demand for it, as journalism professor Jay Rosen points out.

  • People who embrace a false election claim may know that it's untrue but promote it anyway out of tribal solidarity or self-interest.
  • "The challenge is not that most people don’t see the truth — it’s that partisanship undermines accountability. Americans are all too willing to forgive political falsehoods from partisans on their side of the aisle," writes political scientist Brendan Nyhan.

What's next: The embrace of alternate online realities can have dangerous real-world impacts, as incidents of violence connected to the QAnon conspiracy theory demonstrate.

Salesforce rolls the dice with likely acquisition of Slack

Salesforce's likely acquisition of workplace messaging service Slack — not yet a done deal but widely anticipated to be announced Tuesday afternoon — represents a big gamble for everyone involved.

For Slack, challenged by competition from Microsoft, the bet is that a deeper-pocketed owner like Salesforce, with wide experience selling into large companies, will help the bottom line.

Keep reading... Show less

Eleven border cities have combined a violent crime rate below the national average

Data: FBI, Kansas Bureau of Investigation; Note: This table includes the eight largest communities on the U.S.-Mexico border and eight other U.S. cities similar in population size and demographics; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

U.S. communities along the Mexico border are among the safest in America, with some border cities holding crime rates well below the national average, FBI statistics show.

Why it matters: The latest crime data collected by the FBI from 2019 contradicts the narrative by President Trump and others that the U.S.-Mexico border is a "lawless" region suffering from violence and mayhem.

Keep reading... Show less

The rise of military space powers

Nations around the world are shoring up their defensive and offensive capabilities in space — for today's wars and tomorrow's.

Why it matters: Using space as a warfighting domain opens up new avenues for technologically advanced nations to dominate their enemies. But it can also make those countries more vulnerable to attack in novelways.

Keep reading... Show less

Governors in the vaccine hot seat

Governors are preparing to face one of the toughest moral choices they'll confront in office: how to allocate limited stocks of coronavirus vaccine among outsized shares of vulnerable Americans.

Why it matters: Everyone agrees health care workers need to be at the front of the line. But after that things get tricky, as New Mexico's Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham explained in an interview with Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

Slavery ancestorial project to use crowdsourcing in expansion

A database that gathers records about the lives of enslaved Africans and their descendants is undergoing a massive, crowdsourcing-powered expansion to unlock Black Americans' genealogical histories, organizers tell Axios.

Why it matters: The initiative to be unveiled today by is the latest to reconstruct lost or incomplete timelines and records from the 1600s-1800s, as the U.S. and other nations reckon with systemic racism.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: FDA chief called to West Wing

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has summoned FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn to the West Wing for a 9:30am meeting Tuesday to explain why he hasn't moved faster to approve the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, two senior administration officials told Axios.

Why it matters: The meeting is shaping up to be tense, with Hahn using what the White House will likely view as kamikaze language in a preemptive statement to Axios: "Let me be clear — our career scientists have to make the decision and they will take the time that’s needed to make the right call on this important decision."

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Schumer's regrets

Chuck Schumer told party donors during recent calls that the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the fact that Cal Cunningham "couldn’t keep his zipper up” crushed Democrats' chances of regaining the Senate, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Democrats are hoping for a 50-50 split by winning two upcoming special elections in Georgia. But their best chance for an outright Senate majority ended when Cunningham lost in North Carolina and Sen. Susan Collins won in Maine.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump's COVID-19 adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force, handed in his resignation on Monday, according to three administration officials who discussed Atlas' resignation with Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump brought in Atlas as a counterpoint to NIAID director Anthony Fauci, whose warnings about the pandemic were dismissed by the Trump administration. With Trump now fixated on conspiracy theories about election fraud, Atlas' detail comes to a natural end.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories