We Once Thought the Internet Could Liberate Us

By Jason Wilson (November 9, 2018)

1. “MAGAbomber” Cesar Sayoc was an active Twitter user — he used it to spread memes and issue threats. He was well connected with other Trump supporters on the platform.
2. Tree of Life Synagogue shooter, Robert Bowers, announced his intentions on Gab, a site that was set up in response to mild and belated attempts to moderate far right accounts on Twitter and other platforms. Bowers palled around with far right influencers on the site.
3. Scott Beierle, who shot up a yoga studio in Tallahassee last Saturday, killing two women and injuring five others, made YouTube videos in which he “railed against women, black people, and immigrants”, according to BuzzFeed. His rants bore all the hallmarks of influence from the “incel” movement, which has flourished online.
4. ABC (US) is reporting that Ian David Long posted nihilistic messages to Instagram as he carried out a massacre in the Borderline Bar and Grill on Thursday.
All of these incidents have happened just in the last couple of weeks.

There is a deep archive of material, scholarly and otherwise — going back at least 25 years — that tried to position the Internet as an inherently liberalizing technology. I wish that I had been clearer, more forthright, and earlier in voicing my misgivings about that idea.