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Following the U.S. Capitol riot, Twitter permanently banned President Donald Trump's account "due to the risk of further incitement of violence."

Blocked from using his preferred tool for public communication, Trump left behind 88 million followers, some 16,000 now-deleted tweets while in office, and a legacy of spreading disinformation and distrust on the platform.

A CNBC analysis of Trump's tweets during his presidency found that his most popular and frequent posts largely spread disinformation and distrust. Many of his most-liked tweets contained falsehoods, while the topic he posted about most frequently, "fake news," was a weapon for undermining information.

"Trump's primary use of Twitter has been to spread propaganda and manipulate public opinion," said Sam Woolley, director for propaganda research at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for Media Engagement. "He used Twitter to delegitimize information or to delegitimize the positions of his opponents."

Of Trump's 10 most-popular tweets, four contained false claims related to the 2020 election results. Of his 100 most popular posts, 36 contained election-related falsehoods. 

Zoom In IconArrows pointing outwards

Those 36 posts containing election falsehoods received a collective 22.6 million likes and 3.9 million retweets, according to the analysis, which used a historical log of Trump's posts from the Trump Twitter Archive and excluded any retweets from accounts other than @realDonaldTrump.

"Since the November election, Trump has turned to Twitter as the core platform for spreading disinformation about the election," said Woolley. 

The House of Representatives is expected to impeach Trump on Wednesday afternoon for a second time. The Democratic-led House introduced an article of impeachment Monday that cited Trump's repeated false claims of election fraud as evidence that he ignited insurrection at the Capitol.

While the posting of falsehoods is one form of misinformation, Woolley said, Trump also practiced a less direct mechanism: Attacks intended to delegitimize information. This is most visible in the use of Trump's favorite phrase, "fake news," which appeared roughly 900 times across his tweet history.

Zoom In IconArrows pointing outwards

"Trump uses social media and terms like 'fake news' and 'witch hunt' and his power there to create the illusion of popularity for ideas that actually have no basis in reality," said Woolley. "Often what this does is create a bandwagon effect for supporting false or misleading things, or more generally attacking institutions," which may include health care, science, education, and the government, in addition to the media.

The most common two-word phrases used in Trump's tweets as president

1. Fake news

2. United State(s)

3. Witch hunt

4. White House

5. America great

6. Total endorsement

7. New York

8. News media

9. Great job

10. Great again

The increase in social media disinformation from Trump and others has visible effects on U.S. democracy, said Kelly Born, executive director of the Cyber Policy Center at Stanford University. She described broad impacts, such as decreasing trust in institutions, and more specific, tangible outcomes, like the mob of Trump supporters that interrupted a joint session of Congress confirming Joe Biden's election victory.

"There's no question that the [social media] platforms were used in every step" of the riot, said Born, "from the heightening of tensions between these groups to really exacerbating the animosity to actually physically organizing, with people talking about bringing zip ties and rope and where to go and when."

Woolley agreed that last week's events show the power of Trump's internet presence outside of social media, explaining how the online and offline worlds are connected.

The Trump Twitter cycle followed a now-familiar pattern throughout his presidency: Trump tweeted to millions of followers, who further spread the messages in his posts, which were then covered in the media and pushed further into the public discourse, giving Trump another opportunity to comment on his initial message.

"There have been other Republicans and supporters discounting what he does, saying let him have his thing on Twitter, downplaying or ignoring it," Woolley said. "With what we've seen in Washington in the last several days, we can no longer deny the fact that what Trump does and says online has serious offline consequences."

Trump spoke publicly for the first time since the riot on Tuesday, but did not take personal responsibility for the violence. In his comments, he used language similar to that seen in many of his tweets, calling the impeachment talk "really a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in politics."

In addition to how Trump used the tool, Born said that part of his Twitter legacy is that his actions finally forced social media and tech platforms to take action against the type of content and behavior he promoted. In the last week, Google and Facebook suspended or banned Trump from their platforms, Amazon withdrew cloud computing support from social media app Parler due to violent content on the platform, and Twitter suspended more than 70,000 accounts associated with the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.

Because of Twitter's permanent suspension of Trump's account, most of his tweets that were embedded in media stories over the years have vanished, leaving a hole in the historic record of the 45th president. Private companies do not fall under rules for government agencies to preserve documents and communications for legal and historic research.

"These Tweets will no longer be available to the public and this is not an institutional government account," a Twitter spokesperson told CNBC by email Wednesday. "We defer to the White House and National Archives and Records Administration on preservation requirements. We will work with the government to help fulfill their archival laws."

The spokesperson also noted that Politwoops preserves all deleted tweets.

VIDEO0:4700:47Trump: Big Tech making big mistakeSquawk on the Street

- CNBC's Marty Steinberg and Steve Kovach contributed to this story.

Related Tags
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News Source: CNBC

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CNN Pushes to Close Down Newsmax TV

CNN is making no mistake about it: It wants to censor and close Newsmax from broadcasting as a cable news channel.

Apparently jolted by the fact Newsmax has skyrocketed to become the 4th highest-rated cable news channel in the country, the liberal CNN is decrying what it calls Newsmaxs "election denialism" and is seeking to have it "deplatformed" from cable and satellite systems across the nation.

Oliver Darcy, CNNs leftwing media critic, has been demanding cable operators drop Newsmax, which is currently carried by every major system in the nation. Newsmax is also streamed free by most OTT platforms and devices.

In a CNN column in early January, Darcy falsely claimed conservative media caused the protests at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

"After all, it was the very lies that Fox, Newsmax, and OAN spread that helped prime President Trumps supporters into not believing the truth: That he lost an honest and fair election," Darcy wrote.

Darcys demands have been echoed on CNNs shows, including their Sunday media show "Reliable Sources" hosted by liberal media analyst Brian Stelter.

On this weeks Sunday show, Stelters guests focused on deplatforming Newsmax.

Previously, CNN had led efforts to deplatform President Donald Trump from Twitter.

"We are going to have to figure out the OANN and Newsmax problem," Alex Stamos, a former Facebook chief security officer, told CNNs Stelter. "These companies have freedom of speech, but Im not sure we need Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and such bringing them into tens of millions of homes."

In a brazen call for censorship, Stamos echoed CNN demand conservative voices and news outlets be blacklisted and closed out of cable television and the Internet.

"We have to turn down the capability of these conservative influencers to reach these huge audiences," Stamos said. "There are people on YouTube that have larger daytime audiences than CNN."

Darcy doubled down, advancing the McCarthy-like political witch hunt by tweeting a fresh demand cable operators which carry Newsmax consider closing down the outlet:

"Just a reminder that neither @Verizon, @ATT, nor @comcast have answered any questions about why they beam channels like OAN [sic] & Newsmax into millions of homes. Do they have any second thoughts about distributing these channels given their election denialism content? They wont say."

In his tweet, Darcy failed to note AT&T is the parent company of CNN, and by removing Newsmax from cable lineups it reduces serious competition for his network, especially as Newsmax continues to rapidly increase audience and is on a trajectory to overtake CNN in viewership.

While far-left activists jumped to support a potential silencing of Newsmax, others noted the censorship effort runs afoul of both freedom of speech and anti-trust laws.

Former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer exposed the hypocrisy, if not double standard, of the suggestion of silencing conservative channels, tweeting:

"You knew it would happen. Some want to take conservative media off the air because they bought into Trumps election theories. On those grounds, shouldnt CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC be taken off the air because they bought into [Russian] collusion theories? This censorship must stop."

In a statement released Sunday, Newsmax said, contrary to Darcys and Stamos claims, Newsmax never denied the election results.

The network called all contested states for Biden as they were certified and accepted him as president-elect Dec. 14, after the meeting of the Electoral College.

Newsmax also noted, while it justifiably covered the presidents allegations about the election, and interviewed his lawyers and supporters – as did Fox News and Fox Business News, it never said all allegations were true.

The network did note, after years of CNN falsely claiming the Steele Dossier was valid and the Russian collusion claim against Trump was credible, it was never held accountable for its misreporting. Newsmax never called for CNN to be shut down.

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  • Alan Dershowitz to Newsmax TV: Cancel Culture Is Lefts Political Weapon

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