In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol incursion, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said, “I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate and don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency.”
Sandberg may have absolved her company of responsibility prematurely according to Forbes Magazine’s Thomas Brewster.
Brewster obtained data from the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University. The group, he writes, has “collated a list of more than 200 [Justice Department] charging documents filed in relation to the siege. Of those documents, 73 reference Facebook…YouTube was the second most-referenced on 24. Instagram, a Facebook-owned company, was next on 20. Parler, the app that pledged protection for free speech rights and garnered a large far-right user base, was mentioned in just eight.”
To repeat: Facebook 73, YouTube 24, Instagram 20 and Parler, 8.
When questioned about the disconnect between Sandberg’s initial assessment of Facebook’s minor involvement and what turned out to be their starring role, the company claimed that the data shows they’ve “been especially forthcoming in assisting law enforcement in investigating users who breached the Capitol.”
In an article published one week after the incursion, The Washington Post charged that Sandberg had downplayed the social media giant’s role in the riot and indicated that “fliers and hashtags promoting the pro-Trump rally circulated on Facebook and Instagram in the days and weeks beforehand.”
The Post reported that Facebook and Instagram were used to organize bus trips to Washington. According to data provided by Eric Feinberg, a vice president with the Coalition for a Safer Web, 128,000 users were talking about #StopTheSteal.
The references, Brewster explains, consist of both public posts and private messages and they include “videos and livestreams from the breach of the Capitol building.”
The Forbes article looks at the case of Navy veteran and alleged member of the Oath Keepers militia, Thomas Caldwell, who posted on Facebook from the Capitol, “We are surging forward. Doors breached.”
His companion, Jessica Watkins, chose Parler: “Me before forcing entry into the Capitol Building. #stopthesteal2 #stormthecapitol #oathkeepers #ohiomilitia.”
Both were charged in January. Reuters reports that Caldwell told the court, “every single charge is false.” Watkins, according to Reuters, said she understood the charges against her, but “I don’t understand how I got them”.
Does she really need someone to explain it to her?
Anyway, days after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Parler, a favorite among conservatives, was blamed for their failure to monitor posts for violent content. Under this pretense, tech titans Google and Apple removed the Parler app from their stores. This move was immediately followed by Amazon Web Services’ decision to suspend the rapidly growing site from its servers. These actions effectively caused the wildly popular social network to go dark.
The social media giants had eliminated their competition virtually overnight in what sure looked like a coordinated hit. They justified this action by insisting that Parler’s platform had played a major role in the events that unfolded on Jan. 6.
Although no one is surprised, it’s now become clear that it was Facebook’s platform, rather than Parler’s, that played the bigger role on Jan. 6.
The events leading up to the election and everything that’s occurred since have demonstrated the enormous power and influence of Big Tech in America today. Their ability to control what information Americans are allowed to see cannot be overstated. Although the owners and leaders of these companies, which include Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter, have never been elected to public office, they have arguably become more powerful than the U.S. government.
Our most cherished American liberties are under direct attack by a handful of corporations run by ruthless oligarchs with an insatiable appetite for power.
Unfortunately, with the Democrats in charge in Washington, D.C. for at least the next two years, there’s little conservatives can do for the time being. However, we can monitor these companies and keep the public informed of their activities. And if the American people, armed with this information, continue to vote for Democrats, then America, as we’ve known her, is over.