The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI have released new data contradicting media narratives that social media app Parler was the cause of the Capitol riot. Parler, the main competitor to Facebook and Twitter, was banned by Amazon which hosted its website. Parler users have even lost their jobs for just having an account on the service.
The DOJ data now shows that Facebook posts overwhelmingly fueled the 300 individuals who broke past Capitol security on Jan. 6 according to a story in Forbes magazine. In fact, it was Facebook that served as the top rallying point. The official report contradicts assertions by many Democrats and national media outlets which painted Parler as a rallying point for “right-wing extremists.”
That didn’t stop Parler from being banned from the Internet with Google and Apple removing its app from their stores, and Amazon taking the site down completely. Free speech advocates said it was perhaps the biggest example yet of Big Tech overreach and now, the Justice Department is giving credibility to those claims.
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Opponents of Parler cite the platform’s refusal to censor users. “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,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in the hours after the riot.
Sandberg’s contention doesn’t hold up to research from the liberal-leaning George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. The university found that of the 223 government documents discussing charges against individuals who were involved in the Capitol riot, 73 mentioned Facebook. Parler, meanwhile, was only mentioned eight times. Also mentioned more than Parler were 20 posts on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, and 24 posts on YouTube, which is owned by Google. Even Twitter got in on it. The data includes both private messages and public posts sent using their platforms.
Forbes reported that “Sandberg was later criticized for downplaying her employer’s role as a platform for the organizers of the siege. But Facebook was far and away the most cited social media site in charging documents the Justice Department filed against members of the Capitol Hill mob.”
So why exactly was Parler banned? That’s what U.S. Senators and free speech advocates are asking and it may be difficult for Facebook, Google and Amazon to come up with a compelling answer in view of the DOJ data.
Responding to the findings, Facebook said that they “are continuing our ongoing, proactive outreach to law enforcement and have worked to quickly provide responses to valid legal requests. We are removing content, disabling accounts and working with law enforcement to protect against direct threats to public safety.”
As of Tuesday, Big Tech was silent if they would police each other. Parler, on the other hand, remains off the internet as it struggles to find a hosting service.
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice