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Post-January 6th deplatforming reduced the reach of misinformation on Twitter



The social media platforms of the twenty-first century have an enormous role in regulating speech in the USA and worldwide1. However, there has been little research on platform-wide interventions on speech2,3. Here we evaluate the effect of the decision by Twitter to suddenly deplatform 70,000 misinformation traffickers in response to the violence at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 (a series of events commonly known as and referred to here as ‘January 6th’). Using a panel of more than 500,000 active Twitter users4,5 and natural experimental designs6,7, we evaluate the effects of this intervention on the circulation of misinformation on Twitter. We show that the intervention reduced circulation of misinformation by the deplatformed users as well as by those who followed the deplatformed users, though we cannot identify the magnitude of the causal estimates owing to the co-occurrence of the deplatforming intervention with the events surrounding January 6th. We also find that many of the misinformation traffickers who were not deplatformed left Twitter following the intervention. The results inform the historical record surrounding the insurrection, a momentous event in US history, and indicate the capacity of social media platforms to control the circulation of misinformation, and more generally to regulate public discourse.

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Fig. 1: Misinformation sharing on Twitter during the 2016 and 2020 US election cycles.
Fig. 2: Reduction in misinformation retweets among misinformation users on Twitter following the deplatforming after January 6th.
Fig. 3: Time series of misinformation retweeting, for followers and not-followers of deplatformed users, across all activity levels.
Fig. 4: Time series of misinformation retweeting for followers and not-followers.
Fig. 5: DID estimates of effect of deplatforming on followers of deplatformed Twitter users.
Fig. 6: Time series of the number of not-deplatformed users within each subgroup.

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Data availability

Aggregate data used in the analysis are publicly available at the OSF project website ( to any researcher for purposes of reproducing or extending the analysis. The tweet-level data and specific user demographics cannot be publicly shared owing to privacy concerns arising from matching data to administrative records, data use agreements and platforms’ terms of service. Our replication materials include the code used to produce the aggregate data from the tweet-level data, and the tweet-level data can be accessed after signing a data-use agreement. For access requests, please contact D.M.J.L.

Code availability

All code necessary for reproduction of the results is available at the OSF project site


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The authors thank N. Grinberg, L. Friedland and K. Joseph for earlier technical work on the development of the Twitter dataset. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Social Media Analysis Workshop, UC Riverside, 26 August 2022; at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, 17 September 2022; and at the Center for Social Media and Politics, NYU, 23 April 2021. Special thanks go to A. Guess for suggesting the DID analysis. D.M.J.L. acknowledges support from the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Volkswagen Foundation. S.D.M. was supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through a grant to the Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics at the George Washington University.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



The order of author listed here does not indicate level of contribution. Conceptualization of theory and research design: S.D.M., D.M.J.L., D.F., K.M.E. and J.G. Data curation: S.D.M. and J.G. Methodology: D.F. Visualization: D.F. Funding acquisition: D.M.J.L. Project administration: K.M.E., S.D.M. and D.M.J.L. Writing, original draft: K.M.E. and D.M.J.L. Writing, review and editing: K.M.E., D.F., S.D.M., D.M.J.L. and J.G.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David M. J. Lazer.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature thanks Jason Reifler and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer review reports are available.

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Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Replication of the DID results varying the number of deplatformed accounts.

DID estimates where the intervention depends on the number of deplatformed users that were followed by the not-deplatformed misinformation sharers. Results are two-way fixed effect point estimates (dots) and 95% confidence intervals (bars) of the difference-in-differences for all activity levels combined. Estimates use ordinary least squares with clustered standard errors at user-level. The Figure shows results including and excluding Trump followers (color code). The x-axis shows the minimum number of deplatformed accounts the user followed from at least one (1+) to at least ten (10+). Total sample sizes for each dosage level: Follow Trump (No): 1: 625,865; 2: 538,460; 3: 495,723; 4: 470,380; 5: 451,468; 6: 437,574; 7: 426,772; 8: 417,200; 9: 408,672; 10: 401,467; Follow Trump (Yes): 1: 688,174; 2: 570,637; 3: 514,352; 4: 481,684; 5: 460,676; 6: 444,656; 7: 432,659; 8: 421,924; 9: 413,241; 10: 405,766.

Extended Data Fig. 2 SRD results for total (bottom row) and average (top row) misinformation tweets and retweets, for deplatformed and not-deplatformed users.

Sample size includes 546 observations (days) on average across groups (x-axis), 404 before and 136 after. The effective number of observations is 64.31 days before and after on average. The estimation excludes data between Jan 6 (cutoff point) and 12 (included). January 6th is the score value 0, and January 12th the score value 1. Optimal bandwidth of 32.6 days with triangular kernel and order-one polynomial. Bars indicate 95% robust bias-corrected confidence intervals.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Time series of the daily mean of non-misinformation URL sharing.

Degree five polynomial regression (fitted line) before and after the deplatforming intervention, separated by subgroup (panel rows), for liberal-slant news (right column), and conservative-slant news (left column) sharing activity. Shaded area around the fitted line is the 95% confidence interval of the fitted values. As a placebo test we evaluate the effect of the intervention on sharing non-fake news for each of our subgroups. Since sharing non-misinformation does not violate Twitter’s Civic Integrity policy – irrespective of the ideological slant of the news – we do not expect the intervention to have an impact on this form of Twitter engagement; see SI for how we identify liberal and conservative slant of these domains from ref. 52. Among the subgroups, users typically did not change their sharing of liberal or conservative non-fake news. Taking these results alongside those in Fig. 2 implies that these subgroups of users did not substitute non-misinformation conservative news sharing during and after the insurrection in place of misinformation.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Time series of misinformation tweets and retweets (panel columns), separately for high, medium and low activity users (panel rows).

Fitted straight lines describe a linear regression fitted using ordinary least squares of daily total misinformation retweeted standardized (y-axis) on days (x-axis) before January 6th and after January 12th. Shaded areas around the fitted line are 95% confidence intervals.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Replicates Fig. 5 but with adjustment covariates.

Corresponding regression tables are Supplementary Information Tables 1 to 3. Two-way fixed effect point estimates (dots) and 95% confidence intervals (bars) of the difference-in-differences for high, moderate, and low activity users, as well as all these levels combined (x-axis). P-values (stars) are from two-sided t-tests based on ordinary least squares estimates with clustered standard errors at user-level. Estimates compare followers (treated group) and not-followers (reference group) of deplatformed users after January 12th (post-treatment period) and before January 6th (pre-treatment period). No multiple test correction was used. See Supplementary Information Tables 13 for exact values with all activity level users combined. Total sample sizes of not-followers (reference) and Trump-only followers: combined: 306,089, high: 53,962, moderate: 219,375, low: 32,003; Followers: combined: 662,216, high: 156,941, moderate: 449,560, low: 53,442; Followers (4+): combined: 463,176, high: 115,264, moderate: 302,907, low: 43,218.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Placebo test of SRD results for total (bottom row) and average (top row) shopping and sports tweets and retweets at the deplatforming intervention, among those not deplatformed.

Sample size includes 545 observations (days), 404 before the intervention and 141 after. Optimal bandwidth of 843.6 days with triangular kernel and order-one polynomial. Cutoff points on January 6th (score 0) and January 12th (score 1). Bars indicate 95% robust bias-corrected confidence intervals. These are placebo tests since tweets about sports and shoppings should not be affected by the insurrection or deplatforming.

Extended Data Fig. 7 Placebo test of SRD results for total (bottom row) and average (top row) misinformation tweets and retweets using December 20th as an arbitrary cutoff point.

Sample size includes 551 observations (days), 387 before the intervention and 164 after. Optimal bandwidth of 37.2 days with triangular kernel and order-one polynomial. Bars indicate 95% robust bias-corrected confidence intervals about the SRD coefficients. This is a placebo test of the intervention period.

Extended Data Fig. 8 Placebo test of SRD results for total (bottom row) and average (top row) misinformation tweets and retweets using January 18th as a cutoff point.

The parameters are very similar to Extended Data Fig. 7.

Extended Data Table 1 Demographics of Twitter Panel and Associated Subgroups
Extended Data Table 2 Overrepresentation of Demographic Cells in Subgroups

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–5 provide descriptive information about our subgroups, a replication of the panel data using the Decahose, and robustness analyses for the SRD. Supplementary Tables 1–5 show full parameter estimates for the DID models, summary statistics for follower type and activity level, and P values for the DID analyses under different multiple comparisons corrections.

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McCabe, S.D., Ferrari, D., Green, J. et al. Post-January 6th deplatforming reduced the reach of misinformation on Twitter. Nature 630, 132–140 (2024).

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