Storming the Capitol: How much to blame are social networks?

Status: 06.01.2022 12:10 p.m.

The storm on the Capitol was also coordinated on social media. Critics accuse the company of acting like fire accelerators. The allegations in Silicon Valley are only conditional on insight.

By Marcus Schuler, ARD Studio San Francisco

For Frances Haugen, the storming of the Capitol was one of the reasons why the whistleblower wanted to make public what is really going on at her now former employer, Facebook.

The 37-year-old says the social media group puts growth before security. “You said: ‘We survived the election. There was no riot. Now we can dissolve the department.’ A few months later there was a storm on the Capitol. It became clear to me that you have no interest in making Facebook less dangerous. “

Facebook rejects criticism

Your former employer, on the other hand, rejects any responsibility. No trace of self-criticism. In Silicon Valley, however, this opinion is not shared. For example, the former Twitter boss Jack Dorsey admitted at a congressional hearing last year that his short message service was partly responsible for the heated atmosphere at the time. The breeding grounds for attack and murder plans can be found on other, less well-known online platforms. Quite similar to what is currently happening in Germany with Telegram.

The social networks, above all Facebook, acted as a fire accelerator, says Lisa Kaplan, who with her company Alethea Group combats misinformation on the Internet. “Information spreads there almost immediately, without delay. Regardless of whether it is true or not. You can reach a wide audience via the large platforms of Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Content is not moderated on niche offers such as Parler and Gab. The planning probably took place and coordination of the protests took place here, in closed rooms and on encrypted channels. “

Superspreader of misinformation

The first conspiracy myths that the US elections were rigged were not circulated online after the election, but months before. Donald Trump himself has reinforced this claim via Twitter. Kaplan says it isn’t a single social media post that radicalizes people. It is a slow process that ultimately changes the perception of reality.

Critics of the social networks in Silicon Valley say: Companies have to decide which side they are on. Its foundation and its growth took place in the midst of a democratic society. That was the only reason why they were able to thrive. They would have to admit that with their growth-optimized mechanisms they have become super-spreaders of misinformation.

No improvement in sight

Kaplan gives an example: “During our research on paramilitary groups in Michigan, we found that the Facebook algorithm automatically recommends other militant movements. This makes it easier for such organizations to organize. However, the way the algorithm works is also unproblematic Topics such as the environment or hiking. Facebook has to decide for itself what measures it will take if something is directed against our democracy, such as planning violent attacks. “

Many experts say that something will really change on Facebook, it is extremely unlikely. The upcoming midterm elections this year and the 2024 presidential elections are likely to be even more chaotic and violent.

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