The violent insurrection against the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, may prove to be a critical juncture in terms of how our media ecosystem treats disinformation and the individuals and organizations who produce it. On that day, we witnessed exactly what those of us who research the disinformation problem have feared the most, a direct assault on the institutions of democracy that was fueled by lies and conspiracy theories. While perhaps not the absolute worst-case scenario, it was perilously close.
In some ways, we find ourselves in a situation similar to the aftermath of Sandy Hook, when 20 first graders and six educators were brutally murdered. In the wake of December 14, 2012, many asked: If a tragedy of this magnitude doesn’t lead to change on gun control, can we ever expect change? Debate over whether the Sandy Hook tragedy generated the kind of institutional change it should have continues eight years later. For many, Sandy Hook became a touchstone against which subsequent efforts to address gun violence are evaluated.