Yesterday’s incidents were shocking but they were not surprising.
Fair Vote UK and fellow campaigners for digital and democratic reform have been warning of such an event for years. This was an assault on the democratic process but it was created by the deterioration of democratic culture.
Who is to blame? Trump, Trump’s enablers and the rioters themselves all share responsibility.
Yet the threat that exploded yesterday is one that was created, nurtured and maintained by social media. Social media radicalised these people and then helped them recruit, organise and eventually plan this attack.
There are no excuses now. What happens online has real world consequences and every country must do something about it.
Wholesale regulation is now urgently essential.
Pressuring Twitter or Facebook to clean up their act (which, surprise surprise, today they proved they can do but only will do when faced with a PR crisis) is important but it is not enough. Many of the more extreme organisations were finally kicked off these platforms last summer but their followers have simply moved to less discerning sites.
Facebook say they have banned Trump from their platforms “indefinitely” but even now they are still prevaricating, suggesting the ban could be lifted after Biden’s inauguration. Regardless, it is too little too late. We won’t forget this.
And why should we be reliant on the ad hoc “self-regulation” of a private enterprise? Would we trust any other industry to regulate themselves?
Only Government regulation of the whole system will fix this.
In the UK there is an opportunity to do just that with the upcoming Online Harms legislation. It must be comprehensive and robust.