March 11, 2021 marks the one-year anniversary of the “day everything changed” for many Americans, as fears about rising coronavirus cases prompted widespread disruption to everyday life. This same one-year period saw the rapid spread of online misinformation about everything from elections to infections, as the COVID-19 crisis transformed the digital landscape into a breeding ground of false speculation about masks, election results, vaccines, and more.
What can US policymakers and tech companies learn about the current realities and uncertain future of the online misinformation problem?
Today, the online misinformation crisis has never been more apparent. Over the past year, social media platforms have taken unprecedented action to label, slow, and stop the spread of false information. Despite these efforts, millions of Americans still hold false, and potentially dangerous, views about the efficacy of FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines and the results of the 2020 presidential election. The failed insurrection on Jan. 6 exemplified the real-world consequences of online misinformation converging with heightened polarization. After the digital disorder of this past year, what can US policymakers and tech companies learn about the current realities and uncertain future of the online misinformation problem?
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