Trump’s social media platforms tried to refute January 6 evidence

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Supporters of former President Donald Trump rushed to defend him online in the hours after the January 6 committee hearings began, seeking to sow doubt about his involvement through the same social media channels that had captured clear evidence linking him to the Capitol assault.

In doing so, they reinforced the indisputable role social media played in the 2021 insurgency and made clear that its supporters are determined to remain a major internet force, despite Trump’s banning of major platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Trump War Room, a Twitter account formerly run by his re-election campaign, tweeted“Trump and the rally had nothing to do with the Capitol breach!”, defying the House committee’s efforts to pin blame for the riot squarely on Trump.

On the Patriots.win message board — a spinoff of TheDonald.win, where members had shared ideas on how to sneak guns into Washington before the riot — a popular Friday thread called Jan. 6 “the most most patriotic I have ever seen” and declared that anyone who disagrees is “an enemy of the nation”.

And on the pro-Trump channels of the Telegram chat service, supporters derided the audience as too scripted or a partisan circus, if they mentioned it at all.

Trump’s outpouring of support came in response to a hearing that assembled new testimony with never-before-seen footage to document both the severity of the attack on the Capitol and Trump’s role in stimulating it. It also underscored how much the social media landscape has changed in the 17 months since Trump was suspended by major online platforms for his role in stoking violent attempts to quash the election of Joe Biden as president.

For the most part, Trump and some of his most ardent supporters have been relegated to smaller platforms as they seek to respond.

The change was evident in the video montage the Jan. 6 committee showed of the attack, where a rioter could be heard shouting a Trump tweet over a megaphone to incite crowds in the halls of the Capitol. The tweet, which Trump had sent minutes earlier, said Vice President “Mike Pence didn’t have the guts to do what should have been done” and “America demands the truth!”

Trump had used Twitter aggressively to rally his supporters to overturn what he falsely called a fraudulent election, tweeting in December 2020, “WE JUST STARTED FIGHTING!!!” and “Massive demonstration in DC on January 6th. Be there, it’s going to be wild!

Those tweets were widely shared by his fans, and congressional investigators on Thursday shared video testimony from rioters who said they saw them as calls to action. On December 13, 2020, the day before the Electoral College was expected to seal President Biden’s victory, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, emailed lawmakers in the State of Arizona with links to a YouTube video, urging them to “put things right.”

On January 6, 2021, Trump tweeted that states had “voted on a FRAUD. … BE STRONG!” It wasn’t until 2:38 p.m. that he finally urged the crowd via Twitter to “stay peaceful,” after rioters had already stormed the Capitol in what a police officer said Thursday resembled to a bloody “war scene”.

Later that evening, Trump tweeted, “These are the things and events that happen when a landslide sacred election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped of great patriots. … Go home with love and in peace. Remember this day forever!” Two days later, Twitter and Facebook suspended his account, citing the risk that he would incite more violence.

A Twitter official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the topic, told The Washington Post on Friday that company decision makers understood that Trump’s tweets were playing a role in encouraging violence, but had not known at the time that they were literally being read aloud by the rioters.

On Trump’s fledgling Twitter clone, Truth Social, he posted a dozen posts after the hearing, criticizing him for showing “only negative images” of the brutal siege.

Beginning at 6:50 a.m. Friday, Trump called former Attorney General William P. Barr “weak and scared” and deflected blame for the riot. He also spoke dismissively of his daughter Ivanka Trump, after she was shown on video in court saying she believed there was no evidence of fraud that could undo her loss.

She “was not involved in reviewing or considering the election results,” he wrote. “She was long gone.”

Prior to the hearing, Trump wrote — or, in Truth Social lingo, “verified” — that Jan. 6 “was not just a protest, it represented the greatest movement in the history of our country.” The next morning he wrote that the assault “was not caused by me, it was caused by a rigged and stolen election!”

But Trump could only shout to a small crowd: his Truth Social account has about 3 million followers, less than 4% of the 88 million Twitter followers he had before his ban.

Joan Donovan, research director at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, suggested it would be hard to overstate the importance of Trump’s tweets to the events of Jan. 6. a military general, where to go and keep up the pressure was clear to the researchers,” she said. “And it was very clear when he tweeted about getting out of the building and going in peace that people started listening and following his directives.”

The response from platforms in the days following the attack took away much of that power, Donovan said. “It’s not just Trump who has been misrepresented,” but thousands of his supporters and the Parler social network have been removed from major app stores. “Trump’s messaging infrastructure was destroyed that day. And he couldn’t quite reassemble.

Whether major social networks allow Trump to return could have a profound effect on his ability to reorganize for a 2024 race, Donovan added.

While Facebook and YouTube suspended him indefinitely, leaving open the possibility that he could be back, Twitter issued a permanent ban, and Twitter spokesman Trenton Kennedy said on Friday that the company stands by. held on to that. However, billionaire Elon Musk, who is in the process of acquiring Twitter, said he would reinstate Trump.

Some users argued Friday that Truth Social, which has billed itself as a free speech sanctuary to rival what they call Twitter’s censored “cancel culture,” has worked to outright crush the audience discussion.

Travis Allen, an information security analyst in Kentucky, said his Truth Social account was suspended minutes after responding to Trump’s account there on Thursday night referring to the Jan. 6 hearing. .

Allen, who said he’s not a Trump fan, said he didn’t specifically remember what he wrote, but he didn’t think it violated the site’s rules.

I didn’t think the message was even remarkable,” he told the Washington Post on Friday. “It is the height of hypocrisy for Truth Social to claim to support ‘freedom of speech’ and then ban users from talking about” audiences.

Representatives for Trump Media & Technology Group, which owns Truth Social, did not respond to requests for comment.

On Friday, the site showed posts critical of Trump, though many others called the congressional investigation a “hoax.” In February, the site banned an account mocking former Congressman Devin Nunes (R-California), who resigned from Congress to become head of the Trump corporation, with a salary of $750,000 a year.

Ahead of the hearing, some pro-Trump influencers urged their online followers to ignore him. Conservative radio host Dan Bongino posted on his Truth Social account minutes before the hearing began: “Don’t miss the hockey game tonight, it’s must-watch TV! That attitude online matched their cable counterparts on Fox News, who showed little to the audience and called it an “anti-Trump show trial” and a “sham.”

After the hearing, Trump allies sought to dismiss the committee’s findings – based on 1,000 interviews, 140,000 documents and hours of visual evidence – as biased or flawed. Ali Alexander, a conservative activist who organized a “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6 and testified before the committee in December, told Truth Social that the committee used edited videos and fake sounds, without giving any evidence to support. these complaints. “Have you ever seen a video with more fake edits and SPLICES?” he wrote.

That of the committee video featured long series of never-before-seen footage from police body cameras and Capitol surveillance cameras that revealed scuffles in gruesome detail. “We can’t hold this. We’re gonna have too many fucking people. … We’re screwed,” one officer said.

But much of the video also came from social media, like Parler, the right-wing social network then popular with Trump supporters. In a clipa man in a crowd surrounding officers a few steps from the Capitol shouts: “We have been invited by the President of the United States.

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