There is no such thing as a silver bullet in opposition to misinformation. However there are answers.

But Klaassen isn’t the typical Fox News viewer. He’s Canadian, and he watches Fox from his home in Alberta. He had traveled to Ottawa to join the “Freedom Convoy” to protest Canada’s COVID-19 policies and the country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau. “I haven’t watched mainstream media here since this guy [Trudeau] got in the first time,” he said.

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The American right’s footprint on the trucker protests could be seen far beyond Klaassen’s hat or news consumption choices. As a matter of fact, there were times when the Canadian convoy seemed like a most American affair. Many of the protesters waved American flags. A sign read, “Drain the Swamp.” Gadsden flags could also be spotted on a given day in Ottawa during the three weeks that the convoy defeated the city’s downtown. At one point, a protester waved a Confederate flag.

All of these symbols on display in Canada were the manifestation of a massive campaign on social media, right-wing websites, and major conservative and misinformation-spewing outlets like Fox that drummed up the Freedom Convoy and pushed Americans to donate millions of dollars toward it . In fact, the majority of donors to the convoy were American, just as the majority of social media posts in support of the convoy were from the United States, according to a non-peer-reviewed analysis by Kawser Ahmed, a professor at the University of Winnipeg who focuses on radicalization and violent extremism.

What’s disturbing about that fact is not that individual Americans played a role in a protest outside the United States — that kind of activism happens all the time, for better or worse. It’s that the misinformation that is being spread about COVID, governments, and the press by right-wing media campaigns is contributing to an extremist right-wing movement on a global scale, one that is undermining democracies at home and abroad.

While many of the protesters in Ottawa were not extremists by any reasonable standard, many of the convoy’s organizers were. Some, for example, had initially called on overthrowing the Canadian government or held white nationalist views, which ultimately made the Freedom Convoy a potential breeding ground for radicalization. A protest-goer, for example, may have first been nudged to attend the convoy to indeed protest vaccine mandates, but they could have easily begun interacting with members of fringe, extremist “alt-right” groups in person or online.

The Freedom Convoy has since faded into the background, and its American copycat seems to have fizzled, but the Ottawa event should serve as a warning for how quickly misinformation campaigns can galvanize the global extremist right-wing network today — be it through TV, social media, or the dark corners of the Internet.

Because Facebook, Twitter, and other social media giants play an outsize role in disseminating misinformation, many pundits and politicians have made it seem like better regulating these companies will rid the world of radicalization networks at the snap of a finger. And while regulation is certainly a crucial step, it is only part of the antidote to violent extremism. The reality is that there is no silver bullet that will dramatically limit dangerous ideologies’ reach and impact in the near term. To the contrary, policy makers have to start thinking of radicalization and the spread of conspiracy theories as a long-term problem — one that requires a solution that spans a generation or more.

As this editorial board has argued before, the federal government must start properly using its antitrust laws to go after monopolistic behavior by big tech companies , break them up, and increase competition. (The Biden administration has so far taken some promising steps in that direction.)

But more than that, Congress has to tackle these companies’ business models and specifically make consumer protection laws that articulate how and when private user data can be collected, how it can be used, and how long it can be stored. What allows misinformation campaigns to have such success is that advertisers can target, with precision, individuals who would be interested in what they have to offer based on the user’s data that these companies sell. And so misinformation-driven outlets can easily expand audiences by specifically broadcasting to people who have similar political views but have yet to go down conspiracy-ridden rabbit holes.

Additionally, any privacy law, particularly those in the near term, ought to have an “opt-in” clause, which would require consumers to affirmatively opt in to having their private data collected — under clear and transparent terms that are void of deception — rather than have data collection switched on by default.

When it comes to limiting the spread of conspiracy theories, dangerous ideologies, and radicalization networks, regulation will only go so far. After all, these are problems that societies have always faced on varying scales. That’s why lawmakers should look at addressing misinformation before it actually spreads and invest in social media literacy education that could help people, from an early age, figure out how to spot common techniques and “tells” of misinformation.

And though some Republican states are passing legislation to sanitize how American history is taught in schools, studies have shown that teaching people about extremist ideologies in a controlled setting — where the ideas can be contextualized and debunked — before people are exposed to them in the real world reduces the odds of those ideas being appealing or convincing.

In recent years, far-right misinformation campaigns have been linked to mass shootings at a mosque in New Zealand, an assassination of a member of Parliament in Britain, and an insurrection attempt in the United States. Canadian authorities found and seized a significant stockpile of weapons and ammunition near the US-Canada border in relation to the trucker convoy. It’s not that far of a stretch of the imagination to think that political violence could have spilled out during the convoy protests in Ottawa. And unless lawmakers step up soon, the odds of that kind of outcome will only grow.

Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.

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