Supporters of President Trump who stormed the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, on Wednesday were planning the event for weeks on social media apps like Parler and Gab as well as pro-Trump internet forums.
Far-right backers of the president had been anonymously posting messages on TheDonald.win, a Reddit-like message board that was created after Reddit banned a subreddit of the same name last year due to its content.
Trump supporters posted messages on TheDonald that threatened violence against lawmakers, police, and journalists if Congress did not refuse to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, according to BuzzFeed News.
Violent rhetoric and advice on weaponry ramped up significantly in the past three weeks on social media platforms as groups planned for the rallies, including white nationalists and enthusiasts of the wide-ranging QAnon conspiracy theory, according to researchers and public postings.
Comments during the occupation of the Capitol on TheDonald included ‘WE WANT BLOOD’ and ‘murder Pelosi,’ according to research firm Advance Democracy Inc.
‘On TheDonald, more than 50 per cent of the top posts on January 4, 2021, about the January 6th Electoral College certification featured unmoderated calls for violence in the top five responses,’ the organization found.
‘ARMED WITH RIFLE, HANDGUN, 2 KNIVES AND AS MUCH AMMO AS YOU CAN CARRY,’ one post on the website said.
‘What if Congress ignores the evidence?’ one TheDonald user wrote in a thread.
‘Storm the Capitol,’ another replied. The reply review more than 500 likes.
‘You’re f*****g right we do,’ another said.
While the violence was going on, one popular thread was titled: 'PATRIOTS STORM THE CAPITOL | WATCH PARTY.'
Trump supporters also used Trump-friendly platforms like Gab and Parler as well as the encrypted messaging app Telegram to call for violent behavior.
‘Just imagine if ALL the Patriots who are gathered in DC right now were to Rush the Senate, the Supreme Court and the Halls of Congress and take them over,’ one Parler user wrote.
‘We shouldn't count on Trump saving us. Jan 6th We The People need to be saving him,’ another Parler user wrote in the days leading up to January 6.
Several of the Trump supporters even talked about violating the local gun laws in Washington, DC, and bringing their firearms.
‘All this bulls*** about not bringing guns to D.C. needs to stop,’ read one post from TheDonald.win.
‘This is America. F*** D.C. it's in the Constitution. Bring your god**** guns.’
On Parler, one person posted a meme which read: ‘Who would you like to see “dispatched” first? 1) Nancy Pelosi 2) John Roberts 3) Pence 4) other (please name) I was leaning towards Nancy, but it might have to be Pence.’
On Wednesday, some of Trump’s supporters hung a noose from a tree and chanted ‘Hang Mike Pence.’
According to Advance Democracy, Trump supporters who took part in the ransacking could have been motivated by posts on more mainstream platforms like TikTok and Twitter.
Several QAnon-affiliated accounts mentioned January 6, though they were not as explicit in their calls for violence.
A Facebook group called Red State Secession, which has some 8,000 followers, called for a ‘revolution’ on January 6.
The page links to a website that asks followers to send the home and office addresses as well as ‘travel routes’ of ‘political enemies’ including judges who ‘blocked Trump’s agenda.’
'Extremists have for weeks repeatedly expressed their intentions to attend the January 6 protests, and unabashedly voiced their desire for chaos and violence online,' said Jared Holt, a visiting research fellow with DFRLab.
'What we've witnessed is the manifestation of that violent online rhetoric into real-life danger.'
'The earliest call we got on our radar for today specifically was a militia movement chatroom talking about being "ready for blood" if things didn't start changing for Trump,' Holt said.
Parler's CEO, John Matze, denied that his app bears responsibility for any of the violence. He said his service is more akin to a 'neutral town square.'
'If people are breaking the law, violating our terms of service, or doing anything illegal, we would definitely get involved,' he told The New York Times.
'But if people are just trying to assemble or they’re trying to put together an event - which is what a lot of people tried to do at this event today - there’s nothing particularly wrong about that.'
Matze said that Parler has removed accounts that have engaged in 'doxxing' - or posting personal information about users in an attempt to get others to harass them.
When asked if Parler bears responsibility for Trump supporters using the app to organize the ransacking of the Capitol on Wednesday, he said: 'Organizing an event isn't illegal.'
Parler, which styles itself as a 'free speech-driven' space, reportedly gets funding from hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer and his daughter and conservative activist Rebekah.
Right-wing social media users have flocked to Parler, messaging app Telegram and hands-off social site Gab, citing the more aggressive policing of political comments on mainstream platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Matze, who describes himself as libertarian, has said he founded the company in 2018 as a bipartisan platform but has doubled down on marketing to conservatives as they took to the site.
Those who have joined include commentator Candace Owens, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and right-wing activist Laura Loomer, who handcuffed herself to the door of Twitter’s New York office in November 2018 to protest a ban on her by the site.
Facebook and Instagram said Thursday they will bar Trump from posting at least until the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Twitter said Thursday that it’s still evaluating whether to lift or extend what started as a 12-hour lockdown of Trump’s account.
Trump has repeatedly harnessed the power of social media to spread falsehoods about election integrity and the results of the presidential race.
Platforms like Facebook have occasionally labeled or even removed some of his posts, but the overall response has failed to satisfy a growing number of critics who say the platforms have enabled the spread of dangerous misinformation.
In light of Wednesday’s riot, however, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said a more aggressive approach is needed.
'The current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government,' he wrote.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.