In the Facebook control tower during the assault on the Capitol

By Damien Leloup

Posted yesterday at 1:00 p.m., updated yesterday at 4:25 p.m.

It is noon in Washington, January 6, 2021, when Donald Trump takes the podium, to the applause of tens of thousands of his supporters. All came to defend ” their “ president, who lost the election but disputes – without proof – the results. In the crowd, alongside activists from violent groups like the Proud Boys, thousands of Americans responded to the call for a slogan widely circulated on social media: “Stop the steal” [électoral] »).

At 12:20 p.m., facing an already very upset crowd, the outgoing president urges his supporters to march on the Capitol, where American deputies and senators are in the process of certifying the votes. A routine step in the electoral protocol, but which Donald Trump believes he can get canceled. “I know that everyone here will soon be on their way to the Capitol, to demonstrate peacefully and patriotically and make your voices heard”, he announces. The message is very clearly received by the more violent elements of the crowd; eight minutes later, the Capitol police reported that more than 10,000 people were descending the main boulevards of the federal capital in the direction of the building.

The “Facebook Files”, a dive into the workings of the “likes” machine

The “Facebook Files” are several hundred internal Facebook documents copied by Frances Haugen, a specialist in algorithms, when she was an employee of the social network. They were provided to the US regulator and Congress, then transmitted by a US parliamentary source to several media, redacted from the personal information of Facebook employees. In Europe, these media are, besides The world, the German daily Southgerman newspaper, the WDR and NDR television channels, the Tamedia Group, Knack, Berlingske and OCCRP.

They show that Facebook is devoting more resources to limiting its damaging effects in the West, to the detriment of the rest of the world. They attest that these effects are known internally but the warning signs are not always taken into account. Finally, they prove that Facebook’s algorithms have become so complex that they sometimes seem to escape their own authors.

At the same time, the counters panic in the moderation centers of Facebook and Instagram. According to thousands of pages of internal social network documents, recovered by Frances Haugen, a former employee, and transmitted by an American parliamentary source to several media, including The world, the number of reports of content inciting violence is starting to explode on Instagram as well as on Facebook.

The course of the day will illustrate errors of anticipation on the part of the social network, despite an action plan prepared in advance. But also its ability to react very quickly, with emergency protocols put in place in a few hours, and whose effects on the enormous algorithmic mechanics of the social network are difficult to predict, even for the best engineers in the company.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers In the United States, the obstacle course of the parliamentary inquiry into the January 6 insurgency on Capitol Hill

“On Instagram, we had a peak at around 4,000 reports per hour for disinformation, four times more than the day before”, notes an internal report released on January 7, “And seven times more reports of violence or incitement to violence than normal. (…) Many of the most widely reported messages of incitement to violence were from Donald Trump, or were videos of Donald Trump ”, summarize the analysts of the social network. On Facebook, the figures are of a whole different order of magnitude: reports of violence were multiplied by seven on January 6, but are six times more numerous in total than on Instagram.

You have 80.16% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.

We want to thank the author of this short article for this outstanding web content

In the Facebook control tower during the assault on the Capitol