If ever silence was golden, the lack of incendiary tweets from @realdonaldtrump is it.
But looking at the frightening and direct relationship between social media and the riots at the Capitol puts Twitter’s 11th-hour action into perspective. No one should think deplatforming President Donald Trump will solve the problems created and spread by the way this country engages with itself on social media.
If we step back and think through the last four years, it’s clear that Trump is not a cause but a terrible symptom of a disease we created in this country during the early days of the internet. This is a disease that we need to cure through the law — not through the arbitrary, capricious and self-serving decisions of major technology companies.
The next Congress must immediately take up social media reform by revising what is known as Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. This clause gives social media companies near-total immunity from liability for what people post on their sites.
The Capitol riot was openly planned, coordinated and executed on social media. It was livestreamed on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and lesser social media sites such as Parler and Gab that specialize in right-wing conspiracy fantasies.
All of these websites have been used to radicalize people into what amounts to an insurrectionist cult willing to believe anything but the truth that Donald Trump lost the November election.
Facebook and Twitter deplatformed Trump. But so what? Their sites are being used even now to discuss further acts of insurrectionist violence. Just as they were aware that their sites were vulnerable to being used by foreign agents to manipulate our elections, so they are aware their sites are tools of homegrown radicals bent on attacking democracy.
Congress can revisit the error it implemented in 1996.
Social media platforms — where person-to-person connection is paramount — can and must operate under stricter rules that holds companies responsible for content.