Facebook Should Have Stopped The Jan. 6 Domestic Terrorist Attack

Aiden Lutjen, contributor

Jan. 6, 2021, Washington D.C.: A riot takes place in the White House. Supporters of former President Donald Trump marched to the White House after a rally. Spurred on by the man himself, the supposably “rigged” election and the weeks of planning this community went through for this exact day, they approached the White House and began wreaking havoc. Inside, Congress gathered to count electoral votes that would finalize President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. The Congresspeople were evacuated while in the middle of counting votes, and thankfully, were all unharmed. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the people outside of the White House’s walls. 

Outside, there were thousands of rioters carrying Trump flags, American flags and Confederate flags. Some even waved the Nazi flag amongst the crowd, other people bore guns – some loaded – and other weapons. The rioters even took down enough police officers to steal their own guns and bayonets, then used it against said officers in an attempt to subdue them. Many were beaten to the point of unconsciousness. Despite authorities’ attempts to prevent the rioters from infiltrating the White House, their actions were all too late and futile, for the crowd broke through the barricade of riot gear-clad officers, stealing their weapons, shields and gas masks. From here on out, the rioters basically had free reign of the White House, destroying, vandalizing and stealing everything in their path, intimidating or assaulting anyone who tried to stop them. And yes, they did reach the room where the Congresspeople once were not long beforehand.

When the dust had settled and order was somewhat put back in place, the White House and its land looked like a battlefield. The White House had collected a total of $30 million in damages from the attack and planted pipe bombs were quickly found inside the building. In total, 138 officers were left injured, at least 15 hospitalized. An unknown number of rioters were injured – since the majority of them fled the scene – while at least five were hospitalized. Five people died as an immediate result of the riot. In the aftermath, four police officers committed suicide. As of now, only 668 individuals have been charged with federal crimes in relation to the attack.

Now, what if I told you this could have been prevented, or at least have resulted in less damage if one company had decided to step in? If you think that would be impossible, you’d be incorrect, for Facebook has more than enough power to shut down planning of domestic terrorist attacks on their websites. Facebook, who also owns Instagram, were very aware of the capital attack being planned on their websites, with hashtags even going viral on both platforms in the weeks leading up to the attack. But they did nothing. We know this and much more thanks to a former Facebook employee turned Whistleblower, Frances Haugen. With her thousands of records and documents from Facebook, she had set up a strong and terrifying case against them.

“This wasn’t a random event, this was planned; it was being planned in practically broad daylight, not on the “dark web.”

Aiden Lutjen

I think it’s pretty obvious what led up to the planning of this riot, but what is less obvious is all of the ways this could’ve been prevented, or at least decreased the damage done. Frances Haugen is right in her stance that Facebook needs to be held responsible for being aware of a planned terrorist attack and not taking action. This wasn’t a random event, this was planned; it was being planned in practically broad daylight, not on the “dark web.” This was a terrorist attack no one did anything to prevent, only to act surprised when it actually happened. Let’s keep this event in mind when addressing the guilt of such a massive company. Hundreds hurt, a dozen sent to the hospital, five killed. There are consequences to inaction. You can’t stay “neutral” forever.