Just one week before the breech of the U.S. Capitol Building, Richard Barnett posted on Facebook that he “came into this world kicking and screaming, covered in someone else’s blood,” adding, “I’m not afraid to go out the same way.” According to this article by the Washington Post, the man now infamous for the photo of him sitting at Nancy Pelosi’s desk used Facebook, not Parler, to share his desire for violence.
Barnett is just one example of the 121 arrests with information provided by the Department of Justice, which shows that the overwhelming majority used Facebook or Instagram as their medium for connecting with the online social world. In fact, Facebook and/or Instagram are specifically mentioned in the DOJ documentation or media stories for 66 of those 121 arrests.
Facebook and Instagram make up 55% of an independent data pool collected, which details which social media platforms were used before, during, and/or after the events of January 6th, as outlined in the DOJ or Media reports. Twitter was the second most prolific, used by almost 20% of the offenders. YouTube and Snapchat were used by 6% each.
Parler was used by just 3% of those arrested for their actions at the Capitol on January 6th. Only 4 of the 121 arrests cite Parler as a source of online behavior by the offenders.
Thomas Caldwell was also among those arrested. During the siege, he was communicating with friends on Facebook who urged him to trap lawmakers in the tunnels beneath the Capitol and “turn on the gas.” Other Facebook users attempted to send Caldwell location data of where they believed lawmakers to be.
There are several interesting observations that come from reviewing all of the arrests and their detail. One of those observations is how manipulated some adherents of the QAnon movement had become. In the FBI’s Statement of Facts in support of the Criminal Complaint against Douglas Jensen, Jensen stated that he intentionally positioned himself to be among the first people inside the United States Capitol because he was wearing his “Q” t-shirt and he wanted to have his t-shirt seen on video so that “Q” could “get the credit.” Also arrested, Kevin Strong’s Criminal Complaint indicates that he was known to declare that he had “Q Clearance.” Strong also claimed World War III was going to occur on January 6th, and that Q would cover the debt for a new truck he recently had purchased.
Aside from their support for President Trump, and a large majority utilizing Facebook to communicate and capture their behaviors or intentions, there are very few common denominators among those arrested. They came from all races and all walks of life. There were CEO’s, and others who had been unemployed by the pandemic. There were athletes, doctors, construction workers, and entrepreneurs. There were everyday Americans, and in some cases people with more notoriety. Klete Keller is a former Olympian. Simone Gold was founder of America’s Frontline Doctors. Brandon Straka was founder of the WalkAway Campaign.
There were college students and retirees, and people in the primes of their lives. They come from every geographical location in the United States. They come from the wealthiest neighborhoods, to one individual who lives in an old school bus. Many are military veterans who had served with honor. They are a true cross-section of the country’s demographics.
But contrary to their differences, perhaps the most notable thing that those arrested in the Capitol siege all do have in common is that the overwhelming majority, almost 97% of them, did not share their viewpoints, behaviors, or intentions on Parler. Facebook, on the other hand, has a clear problem of allowing violence to proliferate on its platform.
While the spirit of free speech is said to come with responsibility, it should be as important that it has the truth in mind. The truth is that Parler has been unfairly scapegoated, and that is convincingly supported by the FBI’s own investigations into the arrests of January 6th.
(Arrests not included in the percentages above were captured with the help of media images, law enforcement body cameras, Capitol surveillance cameras, or direct arrest at the time of the siege).