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US Capitol Hill seize orchestrated on social media


“This is a demonstration of the very real-world impact of echo chambers,” observed Renee DiResta, a researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory. 

TFM Desk

The US Capitol Hill seize on January 6 by Trump supporters was orchestrated on Social media according to CNN. The mob stormed the building in an attack that saw four people die, which had been encouraged by President Donald Trump in a bid to overturn his defeat in the November 3, 2020 US Presidential Election. 

Just after 1 pm on January 6, when President Trump ended his speech to protesters in Washington by calling for them to march on Congress, hundreds of echoing calls to storm the building were made by his supporters online.

On social media sites used by the far-right, such as Gab and Parler, directions on which streets to take to avoid the police and which tools to bring to help pry open doors were exchanged in comments. At least a dozen people posted about carrying guns into the halls of Congress.

Calls for violence against members of Congress and for pro-Trump movements to retake the Capitol building have been circulating online for months. Bolstered by Trump, who has courted fringe movements like QAnon and the Proud Boys, groups have openly organized on social media networks and recruited others to their cause, the CNN report said. 

On Wednesday, their online activism became real-world violence, leading to unprecedented scenes of mobs freely strolling through the halls of Congress and uploading celebratory photographs of themselves, encouraging others to join them.

On Gab, they documented going into the offices of members of Congress, including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Dozens posted about searching for vice-president Mike Pence, who had been the target of Trump’s ire earlier in the day.

At 2:24 pm, after Trump tweeted that vice-president Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,” dozens of messages on Gab called for those inside the Capitol building to hunt down the vice president. In videos uploaded to the channel, protesters could be heard chanting “Where is Pence?”

As Facebook and Twitter began to crack down groups like QAnon and the Proud Boys over the summer, they slowly migrated to other sites that allowed them to openly call for violence, the CNN report said. 

Renee DiResta, a researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory who studies online movements, said the violence was the result of online movements operating in closed social media networks where people believed the claims of voter fraud and of the election being stolen from Trump.

“These people are acting because they are convinced an election was stolen,” DiResta said. “This is a demonstration of the very real-world impact of echo chambers.”

She added: “This has been a striking repudiation of the idea that there is an online and an offline world and that what is said online is in some way kept online.”

The US Congress later on certified Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, hours after police managed to remove the mob. The certification clears the way for Biden to be sworn in on January 20.

Democrat Joe Biden’s victory was confirmed at about 03:30 local time (08:30 GMT) on January 7 by a joint session presided over by vice-president Mike Pence, who said the violence had been a “dark day in the history of the United States Capitol”.

The chaotic scenes followed months of escalating rhetoric from Trump and some Republican allies that sought to undermine the result of the November 3 election. The invasion of the Capitol by the president’s supporters, some armed, was an event without precedent in modern American history, reports said. 

Biden blasted the “insurrection” as Trump, while telling the mob to “go home”, continued to make false claims of electoral fraud. 

After objections by some Republican lawmakers to overturn the result in Arizona and Pennsylvania were rejected, Congress formally certified the final electoral college vote with Biden receiving 306 votes to Trump’s 232.

Shortly afterwards Trump said in a statement: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.”

The rampage came as two Democrats won Senate seats in elections in Georgia, which shifted the balance of Congress to their party’s effective political control. This major political victory will ease the passage of Biden’s agenda after he is inaugurated.

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