Technology New world. What responsibility of social networks in the assault on the Capitol?

New world. What responsibility of social networks in the assault on the Capitol?

Supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol (January 6, 2021). (SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA)

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram in panic mode. The large social networking platforms evoked an “emergency situation”, Wednesday, January 06, during the attack on the Capitol. They acted more and more radical over the hours. Going so far as to censor Donald Trump’s publications.

Twitter initially prevented non-commented likes and retweets of the president’s posts. Then, 3 tweets in which he continued to claim victory, especially in a video, were completely deleted. At around 1 a.m., the platform announced that it was blocking Trump’s account with nearly 90 million followers for 12 hours, because the messages were against its rules and they risked fueling violence, even threatening to suspend it permanently if the problematic messages persist. Ditto for other platforms. Facebook, Instagram and YouTube (Google), which temporarily suspended Donald Trump’s accounts.

This Thursday evening, Facebook announced to block Donald Trump’s account for at least two weeks.

It is the question of the responsibility of the platforms that is raised. We have seen, among the people who invaded the Capitol, that many openly claimed to be part of the Qanon movement, this conspiratorial movement (which speaks of the deep state and of pedosatanism in the ranks of power …), born on the 4chan network and amplified by Facebook groups, due to the recommendation algorithm that locks users into information bubbles. Were the platforms afraid of being accused of complicity in defending violence?

Social networks seem to be caught between, on the one hand, their principle of neutrality and, on the other hand, their responsibility in terms of public order. This kind of situation could obviously happen again, anywhere in the world, with consequences that we dare not imagine.

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