“Next year might be one of the worst times we have seen, and maybe the worst time we have seen, for the spread of election-related mis- and disinformation,” one expert told HuffPost.
Credit: Maddie Abuyuan / Huffpost

Kate Starbird had been studying online conspiracy theories for years when she realized last year that she was at the center of one.

“I can recognize a good conspiracy theory,” she recalled to HuffPost. “I’ve been studying them a long time.”

Right-wing journalists and politicians had begun the process of falsely characterizing Starbird’s work — which focused on viral disinformation about the 2020 election — as the beating heart of a government censorship operation. The theory was that researchers working to investigate and flag viral rumors and conspiracy theories had acted as pass-throughs for overzealous bureaucrats, pressuring social media platforms to silence supporters of former President Donald Trump.

The year that followed has changed the field of disinformation research entirely.

Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives last fall, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — a key player in Trump’s […]

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