Today’s historic and horrific coup attempt by pro-Trump extremists in Washington played out on social media in much the same way that it was infested. Once again Twitter, streaming sites and other user-borne media were the only places to know what was happening in the nation’s capital – and the best place from misinformation and publicity.
In the morning, official streams and posts reflected what people expect for the day: a body-electoral certification process in Congress while a Trump-led rally turned into general protest. But as the extremists gathered on the steps of the US Capitol Building, the country saw separate flare-ups between them and the police turned into a full-blown violent invasion of several federal buildings, with Congress holding a joint session.
Network news and mainstream sources clashed as people from both sides documented the chaos. As extremists pushed into the outer buildings, then Rotanda, then the House and Senate Chambers, all live-tweeted and streamed events, ranging from White House press reporters to political assistants and elected officials on both sides.
Videos of security guards retreating from mobs or trading blows were viewed by millions, who no doubt found it hard to believe that this was actually happening. Meanwhile, reports circulated around the country in the form of a small invasion of government buildings.
On the one hand, it demonstrated the power of social media to serve as a distributed, real-time aggregator of critical information. The importance of obtaining information directly from the source is difficult to conclude, such as when people inside the Senate chamber attempted to smash images of rioters through a barricade door, while security inside pointed their guns through broken windows did.
Representatives, assistants and journalists posted live as they were evacuated from their offices, asked to lay on the ground to avoid being shot or given gas masks in tear gas or pepper spray. While talking on the National Mall, the chief expressed an apprehension about his life to these people, one might find abstraction. The people we have trained to make us aware of such things, our elected officials were being heavily bullied.
However, social media also allowed for the amplification and normalization of these historical crimes, as rioters flowed as rioters and posted fringe sites such as parlors and Trump-themed Reddit clones. The rioters were clearly not difficult to “gram”, despite the images and videos that amounted to confession of federal crime.
Meanwhile Trump and his allies vented violence, blaming Democrats for using “malicious rhetoric” and repeating unfounded claims about the election.
Years of “we take this very seriously” by the likes of Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg have done little to curb activity from the likes of white supremacists, “militias” like proud boys, and “stop” Misinformation Aggregator Theft ”group. Despite constant assurances that a crack team of AI and intermediaries is at work, it is still on these platforms that we get misleading and false information about topics such as COVID-19 and election security.
Tech leaders today voiced for the first time their frustration with these companies, and while deplatforming has proved effective in some ways, it is not a complete solution. As the cost and difficulty of launching a streaming site, say, keeps on decreasing, it is only expected that when one YouTuber moves away from that platform, they will descend slowly on another and their audience Will follow
Both the promise and the threat of social media were at their absolute best today. One can hardly imagine such an event in the future without intimate details of how we were treated on behalf of both government and insensitive parties.
Although Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have taken different actions, with varying severity and durability, it seems clear whether they want to crack at its worst or not, they may no longer be able to , Either because they lack equipment, or criminals have created a Twitter, Facebook and YouTube of their own.