The Capitol riots of January 6, 2021 were the moment that the rest of the world stopped, looked at America, and asked, “What the heck are you guys even doing?”
Every riot needs a way to organize, and even as the chaos died down, fingers pointed to Facebook. NBC News reported that Facebook had been used as a major platform to plan attacks on the U.S. Capitol, and a nonprofit organization called the Tech Transparency Project flagged a bunch of pages that specifically called out January 6th as go-time. They found that Facebook content in the previous month included things like groups calling citizens to arms, posts in Nazi-style fonts, and appeals for vigilantes who were ready to “Occupy Congress.”
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg adamantly said that it definitely wasn’t Facebook’s fault, and that they had removed somewhere around 350,000 questionable profiles for inciting violence. That’s great, but CNBC says they still missed some big ones. On January 5th, for example, the Black Conservatives Fund told their 80,000 followers that it was time to move on the Capitol.
The conversation was still going on months later, with Facebook saying they’d had 35,000 employees working on security teams in the months leading up to the election. Forbes said that internal memos warned employees to be ready for whistleblower accusations that their work had stopped too soon and Facebook had contributed to the rioting, and a whistleblower saying that is exactly what happened.