Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Trump administration's fight to question the election's outcome is providing a massive field test of the effectiveness of online echo chambers and filter bubbles.

The state of play: So far, the evidence from the Trump universe shows partisan delusion winning out over objective reality.

By the numbers: Some 70% of Republicans now believe the election was not free and fair, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll out Tuesday.

  • That belief may be fast on its way to becoming GOP orthodoxy. A full 86% of Trump voters polled Nov. 8 to 10 didn’t believe Joe Biden had legitimately won, the Economist and YouGov found.

Catch up quick: "Filter bubbles" and "echo chambers" are both names for the idea that partisans use the internet to create preferred alternate versions of truth, tuning in to strident voices on their side and ignoring contradictory information.

  • Social networks and cable news networks show users material that aligns with their worldviews, and users in turn seek out public figures and communities to reinforce those views.
  • Algorithms supercharge this self-segregation, learning what people like and serving up more of it.

Why it matters: If millions of citizens finish the year believing — without proof or even evidence — that the rightful leader of the nation has been deposed in a coup, the U.S. could face long-term instability and a deepening crisis of legitimacy.

What's happening: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other, smaller platforms are awash in counter-factual claims that President Trump won the election.

  • These claims are based on unsupported allegations of voter fraud and purported evidence such as increased voter turnout among Democrats and mail-in ballots skewing strongly Democratic after Trump spent months discouraging voting by mail.
  • They have the imprimatur of legitimacy as figures from Trump and his family to Sen. Ted Cruz to top GOP officials embrace and promote them.
  • The platforms have worked to limit election-related misinformation by labeling false or premature claims, but the enforcement often lags the spread of lies, and the companies can only go so far in trying to shut down a political argument pursued by millions of individuals.
  • Facebook and Google, for instance, have extended post-election political ad blackouts, but that has no impact on the continued spread of misinformation through non-paid posts.

Reality check: Joe Biden's margin of victory in decisive states is too wide to be explained by fraud, which all independent observers, domestic and international, agree is rare and small-scale in the U.S.

  • Trump's legal team, administration, media surrogates and allies in Congress have all failed to produce any evidence of their extraordinary claim that pervasive, unprecedented and undetected fraud swung the election for Biden.

The other side: Just as Trump's loss took many of his supporters by surprise, ultimately driving them further into their filter bubbles, so were many Democrats caught off guard by the narrowness of the tally in many states, Trump's expansion of his vote count since 2016, and Republicans' strong showing in many down-ballot races.

  • And there are certainly plenty of committed liberals who since 2016 have seen Russia behind every corner, treating everyone they disagree with online as a Russian bot or troll.

The catch: There's a clear asymmetry in the volume of misinformation on either side and the extent to which liberals' and conservatives' filter bubbles reflect a break from reality.

Between the lines: Platforms are focused on limiting the supply of misinformation, but we're living in a world where there's extraordinary demand for it, as journalism professor Jay Rosen points out.

  • People who embrace a false election claim may know that it's untrue but promote it anyway out of tribal solidarity or self-interest.
  • "The challenge is not that most people don’t see the truth — it’s that partisanship undermines accountability. Americans are all too willing to forgive political falsehoods from partisans on their side of the aisle," writes political scientist Brendan Nyhan.

What's next: The embrace of alternate online realities can have dangerous real-world impacts, as incidents of violence connected to the QAnon conspiracy theory demonstrate.

Go deeper

Jan 28, 2021 - Technology

Big Tech bolts politics

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Big Tech fed politics. Then it bled politics. Now it wants to be dead to politics. 

Why it matters: The social platforms that profited massively on politics and free speech suddenly want a way out — or at least a way to hide until the heat cools. 

Twitter troll charged with 2016 election interference

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Justice Department charged a pro-Trump former Twitter user with election interference for posts encouraging users to vote via text in the 2016 election.

Why it matters: The DOJ believes this is the first criminal case charging an American with suppressing the vote via disinformation on Twitter.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.