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Banned from mainstream platforms, US conspiracy and supremacist groups, many of which support Donald Trump, Gab instead of Twitter, MeWe over Facebook, Telegram for messaging and Strife for insiders, have migrated to networks that are more private and more difficult to monitor.

“The most extreme Trump supporters were already on alternative platforms,” said Nick Backovic, a researcher at Logically.AI, a company specialising in digital disinformation.

“The fact that Facebook and Twitter took so long to [ban them] allowed influencers to rebuild conversation and groups almost seamlessly.”

After the deadly assault in Washington, DC on January 6, when the US Capitol was stormed by hundreds of Trump supporters, the key social networks took action against the groups involved, such as the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and Proud Boys.

Facebook stepped up its purge of accounts connected to armed groups, shutting down almost 900 accounts in total. Twitter has suspended Trump indefinitely and shuttered 70,000 QAnon-affiliated accounts, a conspiracy theory that argues that the former president is engaged in a fight against a global elite cult of paedophiles adoring Satan.

“De-platforming works,” said Jim Steyer, president of the organisation Common Sense Media. “Now that you look at Trump not being on Twitter, he lost his big speaker, his amplification microphone to the world.”

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