North Texas Daily

We need legislation to stop the spread of conspiracy theories

We need legislation to stop the spread of conspiracy theories

We need legislation to stop the spread of conspiracy theories
March 08
01:00 2021

In the aftermath of the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol, conspiracy theories have been thrust further into the spotlight. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to stop conspiracy theories and disinformation from spreading. We even have elected officials promoting conspiracy theories for their own financial and political gain. These lies have led to extreme acts of violence and it’s time to take action against the misinformation and the people who blatantly promote it.

Former President Donald Trump began publicly promoting conspiracies in 2011 when he falsely claimed then President Barack Obama wasn’t born in America. Before the 2016 presidential election, Trump falsely claimed that Obama was supporting Al Qaeda and ISIS. The blatant lies didn’t end when Trump became president, they only grew bigger and louder. He continued to spread various conspiracy theories throughout his presidency. The most dangerous conspiracy theory touted by Trump claims Democrats committed mass voter fraud and stole the presidential election.

In the moments when we needed strong leadership, Trump chose to align himself with QAnon conspiracy theorists to propagate their ridiculous lies. QAnon is a right-wing extremist group that believes there is a Satan-worshipping pedophile ring within the U.S. government being run by celebrities, public figures, Democrats and other people they don’t like.

It may sound absurd to a normal person, but many people on the right passionately believe in these conspiracy theories. The QAnon followers treat Trump like a cult leader by religiously following everything he says and blindly defending him. 

Falsely claiming voter fraud led to the deadly insurrection of the U.S. Capitol where right-wing terrorists tried to overthrow the government. Conspiracy theories have spread so broadly and rapidly because we have elected officials promoting them to keep themselves in office. By pandering to a psychotic base of people who thrive on disinformation, these officials have created a major problem and we need to solve it with legislation while Democrats hold the majority in the House and Senate.

Recently, one of Trump’s closest allies in Congress has been thrust into the spotlight. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has made headlines due to her promotion of QAnon conspiracy theories and her support for violence against Nancy Pelosi. It’s dangerous to let people like Greene hold public office and blatantly spread disinformation.

QAnon conspiracy theorists are abusing the first amendment by spreading disinformation. This problem isn’t limited to Trump and Greene, almost the entire Republican party has been infected by QAnon conspiracies. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas helped amplify the false claims about voter fraud which led to the insurrection. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri used his platform on social media to aid the conspiracy-fueled domestic terror attack. Rep. Lauren Boebart of Colorado is another culprit in spreading the voter fraud conspiracy theory. Boebart has been accused of giving the insurrectionist’s reconnaissance tours of the Capitol building prior to the insurrection.  

Conspiracy theories have infiltrated the U.S. government and they’re threatening our democracy and national security. These outrageous ideas have further radicalized right-wing extremists and turned them into domestic terrorists. Now it’s time for Democrats to step up and craft legislation to combat the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories. 

One solution to this problem would be amending the First Amendment, which has never been done before. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented solutions and I believe we should consider all options. Currently, the First Amendment broadly protects the freedom of speech and we need to narrow it down a bit. The purposeful spread of conspiracy theories and disinformation should no longer be protected under the First Amendment. There’s too much room for people to take advantage of their right to free speech. 

Amending the First Amendment is a long shot because it’s a sacred right for Americans and it may not be very effective. Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits elected officials from engaging in insurrection, but the elected officials who engaged in the insurrection of the Capitol haven’t been held accountable. The constitution doesn’t seem to matter to the Republican party when it contradicts the actions of their toxic leader Trump and his minions. 

America can’t heal unless we stop conspiracy theories and we can’t stop them until the elected officials who support them are held accountable and removed from office. 

Another effective solution would be legislation requiring social media outlets to prohibit the spread of conspiracy theories. Social media is the main source of communication among conspiracy theorists and it would be effective to start there.

Facebook and Twitter have taken their own actions against misinformation, but they haven’t gone far enough. I think they should prohibit the use of common phrases and words related to QAnon on their platforms. Censorship isn’t always a bad thing, especially when it’s used to protect our country from domestic terrorism.

Featured Illustration by Pooja Patel

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Shelby Stevens

Shelby Stevens

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