We created our own red herring through social media

Protestors wave their flags and rush to climb the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo courtesy by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images.

When my friends and I sat down for coffee on a calm January morning, the last thing on our minds was watching the live coverage of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C in shock. Our plans to study together were immediately scrapped once we saw thousands of rioters storm inside the Capitol.

My first instinct was to check Twitter. My entire news feed was compacted into this single app and yet, I couldn’t find a reason behind this phenomenon.

Surfing through the hashtags and trending page, I saw that many of my peers were likewise confused.

How did this happen? How did no one catch this?

On Jan. 6, riots filled the Capitol building protesting in the name of former U.S. President Donald Trump in his 2020 presidential election loss. By 1 pm, they began vandalizing, looting, and occupying the perimeters of several Congressmens’ offices.

All while my friends and I were watching helplessly through our own social media feeds.

Parler is a social media site known for its far-right content and significant support from conservatives. Photo courtesy by SOPA Images.

Not only Twitter and Facebook were receiving live photo and video updates, but other right-wing social media sites like Parler and Gab became buzzwords in our minds.

How come we never heard of them?

Exploring the means of these sites led me to believe that we have yet to scratch the surface of learning the true power of social media. Fake news is now more rampant than ever before. Misinformation spreads like wildfire and there is no sign of stopping.

I never anticipated that social networking sites would have a role in orchestrating such an immense response. However, I believe that the rise of “fake news” played an important role in the events that occurred on Jan. 6.

Sites like Parler grew in popularity because the majority of Trump supporters believed that mainstream media were projecting false narratives that damaged their political image. One such example is the QAnon conspiracy that roams around right-wing social media users.

Powerhouse social media giants like Twitter and Facebook previously attempted to remove the abundance of “fake news” trolls in their sites, but only to limited success. Many of these trolls lurked onto other sites which increased the problem.

The Capitol riots were one example that social media failed to protect the public. They weren’t supposed to happen. It could’ve been prevented.

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Marlen Avila

Marlen Avila

Journalism Student at the University of Houston | Interested in Latin American Politics and Culture