The scale of internet platforms is such that their mistakes can undermine democracy, public health, and public safety even in countries as large as the United States. Facebook’s own research revealed that 64 percent of the time a person joins an extremist Facebook Group, they do so because the platform recommended it. Facebook has also acknowledged that pages and groups associated with QAnon extremism had at least 3 million members, meaning Facebook helped radicalize 2 million people. Over the past six months, QAnon subsumed MAGA and the antivax movement, with a major assist from the platforms and policies of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. The recording of President Trump’s recent conversation with Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, confirmed that Trump has joined his followers in embracing QAnon and its conspiracy theories.
Congress and law enforcement must decide what to do about the unprecedented insurrection in Washington. President Trump and elements of the right-wing media must pay. So, too, must internet platforms. They have prioritized their own profits and prerogatives over democracy and the public health and safety of the people who use their products. It is no exaggeration to say that internet platforms, as well as new technologies like artificial intelligence and smart devices, are unsafe. They are very often created by people who have no incentive to anticipate, much less prevent, harms. As things stand, the incentives have encouraged the development of a predatory ecosystem, with platforms, users, and politicians alike in on the grift.