Dr. Joan Donovan, Shorenstein Center Research Director and Director of the Technology and Social Change Project, is featured in this month’s Harvard Magazine profile on disinformation. Read on for an excerpt from the article:
When “Stop the Steal” turned violent on January 6, few were less surprised than Donovan. Hours before the Capitol was breached by protesters, she had tweeted a prediction: “Today we will witness the full break of the MAGA movement from representative politics. As you watch what unfolds in DC today, remember that activists are both inside and outside the Capitol.”
By the end of the day, four had died, including a woman shot by a Capitol Police officer as she climbed through a shattered window. (One officer assaulted with chemical spray died the next day of natural causes, according to the Washington, D.C., chief medical examiner’s office.) The Capitol Police Union reported that nearly 140 officers were injured during the attack, and two died by suicide shortly after. The damage to the Capitol has cost tens of millions of dollars to repair; more than 400 people have been charged with federal crimes.
“What we saw on January 6 was not a young people’s revolution. This was an artifact, or an outcome, of the design of Facebook,” Donovan says. “The time is now for realizing that of course, we can’t walk back in time and do something different. But we surely can insist the future of the internet isn’t like the present.”