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How online misinformation helped fuel the Capitol riot

What level of online influence did local and state-level Republican officials have in the lead-up to the Capitol insurrection? An Associated Press investigation delved into the public and private social media accounts of nearly 1,000 Republican officials to look at how many perpetuated online misinformation leading up to the Jan 6 riot. Garance Burke, journalist for the AP, joins to discuss.

AIRED: February 28, 2021 | 0:05:11
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TRANSCRIPT

>> Sreenivasan: AS

INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE

JANUARY 6 INSURRECTION AT THE

CAPITOL CONTINUE, WE'RE LEARNING

MORE ABOUT HOW MISINFORMATION,

LIES AND CONSPIRACY THEORIES

ONLINE HELPED TO INCITE THE

VIOLENCE.

AN INVESTIGATION BY THE

ASSOCIATED PRESS DELVED INTO THE

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SOCIAL MEDIA

ACCOUNTS OF NEARLY 1,000 ELECTED

AND APPOINTED REPUBLICAN

OFFICIALS AT THE STATE AND LOCAL

LEVEL NATIONWIDE.

MANY HAD VOICED SUPPORT FOR THE

INSURRECTION, DEMANDING THAT THE

2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BE

OVERTURNED.

I RECENTLY SPOKE WITH GARANCE

BURKE, GLOBAL INVESTIGATIVE

JOURNALIST FOR THE ASSOCIATED

PRESS, ABOUT THEIR

INVESTIGATION.

SO, GARANCE, HOW PREVALENT IS

MISINFORMATION, DISINFORMATION,

IN DIFFERENT CIRCLES ON A

STATE-WIDE LEVEL ACROSS THE

REPUBLICAN PARTY?

>> SO, AFTER THAT VIOLENT

CAPITAL INSURRECTION, WE FELT IT

WAS REALLY IMPORTANT TO LOOK

CLEAR-EYED AT THE KIND OF

MESSAGING THAT WAS TRAVELING

AMONGST THE RANKS OF LOWER LEVEL

G.O.P. OFFICIALS.

AND SO, WHAT WE DID IS, WE

REVIEWED THE ARCHIVE OF THE

RIGHT WING ALIGNED SOCIAL MEDIA

NETWORK PARLER, AND GOT A SENSE

OF EXACTLY THE KINDS OF LIES AND

MISINFORMATION AND CONSPIRACY

THEORIES THAT ARE STILL MAKING

THEIR WAY AROUND QUITE

PREVALENTLY IN THESE CIRCLES.

>> Sreenivasan: HOW DO THESE

DIFFERENT STATE PARTIES

FUNCTION?

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT IF SOMEONE

IN THEIR LEADERSHIP IS SHARING

THIS KIND OF INFORMATION?

>> SO, EXACTLY, THESE ARE PEOPLE

WHO THE COMMUNITY HAS ELECTED TO

REPRESENT THEM OR WHO'VE BEEN

APPOINTED TO STATE, LOCAL COUNTY

BOARDS, COMMISSIONS, BY MEMBERS

OF THE PARTY.

AS AN ELECTED OFFICIAL, YOU

REALLY DO HAVE MORE INFLUENCE

ONLINE.

AND SO, FOR THAT REASON, WE FELT

IT WAS IMPORTANT TO LOOK AT

THEIR CONVERSATIONS AND THE

MESSAGING THAT THEY'RE PUTTING

OUT TO UNDERSTAND HOW

MISINFORMATION AND LIES ARE

TRAVELING.

>> Sreenivasan: WAS THERE A

PREVALENT THEME?

>> WELL, WHAT WE FOUND IS THAT

ELECTED AND APPOINTED OFFICIALS

IN THESE LOWER LEVEL BRANCHES OF

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY ARE VERY

BITTER ABOUT WHAT THEY PERCEIVE,

DESPITE NO EVIDENCE, AS THE

ELECTION HAVING BEEN STOLEN.

THERE'S A LOT OF REALLY ANGRY

POSTING OUT THERE ABOUT THE NEED

TO CONTINUE THE FIGHT, WITH SOME

OFFICIALS ACTUALLY SAYING THAT

ALL ABLE-BODIED MEN BETWEEN THE

AGES OF 18 AND 45 ARE PART OF A

MILITIA AND SHOULD TAKE UP ARMS.

>> Sreenivasan: AND IS THIS

REGISTERING WITH NATIONAL LAW

ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES OR EVEN

STATE AND LOCAL ONES?

>> WELL, WE DON'T KNOW EXACTLY

WHAT'S TO COME, RIGHT, BUT WE DO

KNOW THAT F.B.I. AND THE

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

HAVE WARNED VERY RECENTLY THAT

THERE'S THE POTENTIAL FOR MORE

VIOLENT EXTREMISM AND DOMESTIC

TERRORISM.

WE DID SPEAK WITH ONE REPUBLICAN

OFFICIAL IN MICHIGAN WHO HAD

RECENTLY BEEN VISITED BY F.B.I.

SHE SAYS SHE WAS GLAD TO TELL

THEM SHE DID NOTHING WRONG WHEN

SHE WENT TO THE CAPITOL

INSURRECTION AND SIMPLY WAS

THERE TAKING A PHOTO, BUT I

THINK THAT THIS IS GOING TO BE

SOMETHING THAT OUR NATION'S LAW

ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES ARE GOING

TO BE TAKING A CLOSE LOOK AT,

ABSOLUTELY.

>> Sreenivasan: WHAT WERE THE

REACTIONS FROM THE INDIVIDUALS

WHEN YOU AND OTHER REPORTERS

SHOWED THEM WHY YOU'RE CALLING,

WHAT YOU'RE CALLING ABOUT,

WHETHER THEY STOOD BY THESE

STATEMENTS?

>> WELL, THE REPUBLICAN

OFFICIALS WHO WE SPOKE WITH,

HARI, FEEL LIKE THEIR SPEECH IS

BEING CENSORED ON SOME OF THE

MAINSTREAM SOCIAL MEDIA

PLATFORMS.

THEY'RE PARTICULARLY GRAVITATING

TOWARDS OTHER PLATFORMS WHERE

THEY FEEL THAT THEY CAN SPEAK

FREELY.

SO, I THINK THAT FOR THESE LOWER

LEVEL G.O.P. OFFICIALS, THERE'S

A REAL, KIND OF, CONCERN HERE

WHEN DOES FACT CHECKING VEER

INTO THE SUPPRESSION OF FREE

SPEECH?

THAT'S A LOT OF WHAT WE HEARD.

ON THE OTHER HAND, SOME OF THE

OFFICIALS WHEN WE CONTACTED THEM

AND SHOWED THEM SOME OF THE

SCREENSHOTS OF THE ARCHIVED

POSTS THEY HAD PUT OUT THERE ON

PARLER, AT FIRST DENIED THAT

THEY WERE, IN FACT, THEIR WORDS

AND THEN LATER ACQUIESCED THAT

INDEED THEY HAD SAID THESE

THINGS AND STOOD BY THEM.

>> Sreenivasan: AS YOU DID ALL

THIS REPORTING, WHAT STOOD OUT

TO YOU?

>> ONE OF THE THINGS THAT REALLY

STOOD OUT TO ME IS JUST THAT

THERE ARE, IN FACT, TIES BETWEEN

LOWER LEVEL REPUBLICAN OFFICIALS

AND MILITIA GROUPS WHO HAVE

TAKEN UP ARMS TO PROTEST WHAT

THEY SEE AS VERY UNFAIR

POLICIES, BE THAT, YOU KNOW,

MANDATES TO WEAR MASKS IN PUBLIC

OR NOW ISSUES TIED TO THE 2020

ELECTION.

AND SO, I THINK THAT WHAT IS

REALLY INTERESTING TO OBSERVE IS

JUST THE KINDS OF MESSAGING THAT

THESE GROUPS ARE TRADING AMONG

THEMSELVES SURROUNDING THE RIGHT

TO BEAR ARMS.

AND THAT'S, OF COURSE, SOMETHING

THAT I THINK THAT F.B.I. WILL BE

LOOKING AT MORE DEEPLY AS THE

WEEKS GO FORWARD, THESE TIES TO

MILITIA GROUPS.

>> Sreenivasan: GARANCE BURKE OF

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, THANKS SO

MUCH FOR JOINING US.

>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.