There’s been a lot of discussion since the Capitol insurrection about the role social media companies, their site designs, and their business models have played in the spread of online conspiracy theories. This is a thread about whether what’s being done goes far enough.
First, let’s start with President Trump, the unapologetic, chief author of the false claim that the election had been stolen from him. That conspiracy theory was an inspiration for the mob at the Capitol.
Last week, social media platforms finally blocked the president’s accounts. Previous cases show that deplatforming works... but only if the costs are high enough.…
Now onto Parler, a site that bills itself as a “free speech social network.” It was widely used to coordinate the storming of the Capitol last week.
Parler has gone offline after Amazon stopped hosting it on Sunday night, citing violations of the terms of service.…
That’s good news… unless another hosting company steps in and offers to host Parler. After 8chan, a website used by mass shooters to post videos and manifestoes, was banned by hosting company Cloudflare in 2019, it was back online in just a few weeks.…
It remains to be seen how effective these measures will be. But they’re straightforward enough:

-Ban Trump from social media to reduce his audience and dilute the reach of his statements
-Ban Parler to impede its growth
Fixing Big Tech is a much more herculean task...
We’ve written at length about how these platforms and the leadership of these companies led us to this point.
In October, @abbyohlheiser spoke with a small handful of people about how the major social media companies have, for the entire lifetime of their history, chosen to do nothing, or to act only after their platforms cause abuse and harm.…
.@abbyohlheiser expanded on the above subscriber exclusive with a column last week that explains why the attack on the Capitol was inevitable—and how more people, especially at Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, should have listened.…
What, then, can be done? We asked technologists to weigh in.
There’s simply no reason to trust Mark Zuckerberg and other tech leaders to get these big decisions about free speech right, argues @jilliancyork. Let users decide instead, she writes in this op-ed.…
Big Tech’s business model is doing irreparable harm to society. But there is an alternative, and we don’t need to destroy these companies to get there, writes @tristanharris.…
Congress should also look at online conspiracy theories—and how they’re made worse by the design of social media sites. It’s something @BostonJoan advocated for in July and which we're calling for again now.…
The bottom line, as @abbyohlheiser put it, is abuse, harassment, conspiracy thinking, and racism will still be able to benefit from social media companies that remain interested in acting only when it’s too late. Let’s demand these tech giants do better.…

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