How Social Media is Responding to the Riots at the U.S. Capitol
January 6th will live as a dark day in our nation’s history. As a nation, we’re still collectively trying to process what occurred. Social media played a massive part in the organization of the riots. The three biggest players were Twitter, Facebook, and Parler. Let’s take a look in the roles they’re currently playing in the aftermath of the attack on America’s capitol.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Twitter disabled President Trump’s Twitter account the evening of January 6th for 12 hours, after the President tweeted multiple tweets that at their worst were inciting violence and certainly weren’t calling for an end to the siege. On January 8th Twitter made the decision to permanently disable Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account. They did this because of the two tweets shown below (screenshot from Twitter’s blog). Twitter believed that the first tweet made it clear that President Trump wasn’t committing to a peaceful transition of power, which could further push his followers towards violent action. The second tweet made Twitter concerned that some readers would view this as a signal that the inauguration would be acceptable to attack because Trump wouldn’t be among the crowd. Twitter also cited that plans for another violent attack at the capitol was already being planned on its platform for January 17. Read Twitter’s full statement on banning President Trump here.
Like Twitter, Facebook implemented a temporary ban on January 6th. On the morning of the 7th, Facebook announced that President Trump would be blocked from the platform for at least 2 weeks. Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerburg posted his explanation for blocking President Trump from his platforms (Instagram and Facebook). Facebook has been actively removing any posts that praise the storming of the capitol, call for protests that break DC curfew, planning of other violent riots, or call for weapons to be brought to protests.
Many people hadn't even heard of Parler until last week when it become a central talking point on the news cycle. Parler coined itself as the "free speech" alternative to Twitter since its origination in September of 2018, letting its users say whatever they wanted - racist comments, calls for violence, etc. Parler was used to organize and plan for the riots at the capitol, and many rioters were actively posting on Parler while they were inside the capitol building. Because of this, Apple and Google removed the app from their app stores, and Amazon kicked Parler off of their website hosting platform - effectively shutting Parler down. Before the shut down of the app, hackers were able to obtain and archive every single post made on the platform, including the GPS coordinates from where many of the posts were posted. Check out this map created by coding artist Kyle McDonald and tech news website Gizmodo from the data obtained from Parler. Every red dot indicates a video posted to the Parler platform during the riot. Notice the amount that were posted from within the capitol building. This evidence is being used for arrests, against Parler's wishes. Parler is currently planning massive lawsuits against Apple, Google, and Amazon.
Unfortunately, the response of these social media companies (or lack thereof from Parler) are too little too late. Violent rhetoric has been spreading across social media, and with a new administration coming into the Federal government, Facebook, Twitter, and Google may be in for some new, intense regulations. As we near the inauguration, make sure you're getting your news from reliable, nonpartisan sources, and be sure to report any violent language on social media.