The power of social media can make or break anyone’s career. Even a president’s.
Donald Trump spread his message of “Making America Great Again” through social media, especially on Twitter. This turned him from a multimillion-dollar businessman into the 45th President of the United States of America.
Since then, he has used Twitter as his favoured megaphone, sharing his unfiltered thoughts through 280-character tweets ranging from accusing then-President Barack Obama of “not having a positive impact to the rioters” during the Baltimore Riot of 2015 to accusing President-elect Joe Biden of stealing the 2020 Presidential elections.
His supporters took his words without question and acted on them without hesitation. This came in the form of online criticism aimed at people who do not share their views to protests demanding their states to re-open during a time when staying indoors at all times is a sensible order to follow.
The whole world was baffled by the actions of his supporters. America, a country known for their patriotic pride, is slowly tearing itself apart because its President commanded them to “liberate” their states.
However, it was only a matter of time before his favoured megaphone would be turned against him and his followers.
ProPublica.org, an independent, non-profit investigative newsroom, acquired videos shared through Parler from an anonymous programmer before Parler was taken off the internet.
Parler is a messaging app and website which provides far-right groups with an alternative, unmoderated platform to discuss and share their beliefs.
ProPublica then published these videos on their website to “provide one of the most comprehensive records of a dark event in American history through the eyes of those who took part.”
The videos showed how the insurrectionists rallied to the Capitol to besiege it, and eventually stormed into it. They then called for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence’s blood, calling the latter a “traitor.”
According to an NBC broadcast, the FBI has made at least 139 arrests of those involved in the insurrection and has currently at least 330 cases open in the search for other insurrectionists.
Authorities mentioned that their tips came mostly from social media, especially through Facebook and Instagram.
For instance, Inside Edition reported on an 18-year-old who turned in her mother, aunt and uncle after her cousin showed her a video of them in attendance at the Capitol insurrection a week ago.
Helena Duke, the 18-year-old, was stunned to see her mother, who actively discouraged her from going to BLM protests due to violence, was at the US Capitol with a bloodied nose when she thought her mother was somewhere else.
After tweeting her mother, uncle, and aunt’s attendance in the insurrection, Helena received a message from her mother condemning her tweet.
“She told me I was throwing away my life, that… my life was ruined, and that my sister’s life is on my hands,” Helena said in an interview with Inside Edition’s Steven Fabian.
ABC News reported that Helena has received support from several people for her decision.
People who were confirmed to be in attendance during the attack have lost their jobs, including Helena’s mother, uncle, and aunt.
State capitals, meanwhile, brace themselves for what could be a repeat of the insurrection at their very own front yard. This is after far-right groups migrated to more secure messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram after Parler was taken down from the internet.
Louis Grever, head of the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies said that apps like Telegram and Signal provide a platform for ill-intents away from law enforcement’s monitoring.
According to the New York Times, Telegram has become the far-right’s new favoured messaging app due to Telegram mimicking social media. However, Parler made a slight comeback on 18 January 2021 when their website partially returned to the online scene through DDos-Guard, a Russian-owned technology company.
Currently, the US Capitol is being prepared for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Residents have stated that the place is like a warzone where the constant presence of the US National Guard serves as a reminder of what happened on 6 January 2021 and in preparation of what is expected to come on 20 January.
The US House of Representatives, on the other hand, has moved to impeach President Trump for a second time with a vote of 232 to 197 for the insurrection on 6 January despite him having one week left in office by the time the vote was tallied.
Thanks to social media and the many insurrectionists who shared images and videos of the storming of the Capitol, pieces of evidence against President Trump will be easy to find – his speech that inflamed his supports to incitement and his supporters’ speeches who further fanned the flames chief among them.
The New York Times reported that Facebook was partially complicit to the events on 6 January 2021. In the report, they mentioned that there were users who were radicalised virtually overnight on Facebook before the US Capitol attack.
“A journey through their feeds offers a glimpse of how Facebook rewards exaggerations and lies,” the article stated.
The article used a particular Facebook user as an example of their claim. His feed on Facebook was unexciting before the 2020 presidential election. However, that changed when he started posting about what he believed was suspicious activity around the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Since then, he has garnered more than 61,000 supporters. He stated in an interview with The New York Times that he was looking forward to meeting them on 6 January.
He also mentioned that Facebook gave him the push to be what he is today.
All this goes to show the power social media holds in the world today. Are social media platforms to blame for the events at the US Capitol? We’ll let you decide.
Written by John Paul Joaquin