A Department of Homeland Security bulletin indicates the federal agency is concerned with the spread of “conspiracy theories” online.
A press release Wednesday acknowledged DHS is “engaging industry partners to help identify and respond to the spread of disinformation, conspiracy theories, and false narratives on social media and other online platforms, while protecting privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.”
A corresponding National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) bulletin noted the so-called conspiracy theories are being wielded by bad actors to inspire people to commit violent acts.
“Law enforcement officials have expressed concerns that the broad sharing of false narratives and conspiracy theories that endorse the use of violence will continue to gain traction, resulting in individuals or small groups embracing violent tactics to achieve their desired objectives,” the bulletin stated, at the same time noting there’s currently no specific imminent, credible threat.
“DHS is concerned that increased acts of violence, as well as targeted attacks against law enforcement, may strain local resources and challenge the ability of law enforcement to maintain the safety and security of local communities.”
The NTAS advisory also warned about threats to the US from “domestic violent extremists (DVEs), including racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and anti-government/anti-authority violent extremists,” and goes on to hypothesize that an emerging new Covid variant could prompt a violent uprising.
“Through the remainder of 2021 and into 2022, racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and anti-government/anti-authority violent extremists will continue to pose a threat to the United States. Pandemic-related stressors have contributed to increased societal strains and tensions, driving several plots by DVEs, and they may contribute to more violence this and next year.”
“If a new COVID-19 variant emerges and new public health restrictions are imposed as a result, anti-government violent extremists could potentially use the new restrictions as a rationale to target government or public health officials or facilities. In addition, some DVEs have attempted to use the relocation of Afghan nationals to the United States to exacerbate historical DVE grievances over immigration and the American Muslim community.”
Additionally, the bulletin claims domestic terrorists are also disseminating “narratives online that promote violence, and have called for violence against elected officials, political representatives, government facilities, law enforcement, religious communities or commercial facilities, and perceived ideological opponents.”
Said domestic terrorists could scour online blogs for information, or use encrypted messaging apps, the bulletin broadly warned.
Ideologically motivated violent extremists fueled by personal grievances and violent extremist ideological beliefs continue to derive inspiration from and obtain operational guidance, including regarding the use of improvised explosive devices and small arms, through the consumption of information shared in online forums. The use of encrypted messaging by violent extremists may obscure operational indicators that provide specific warning of a pending act of violence.
As usual, the agency’s advice in the face of the phantom menace is the age-old soviet tactic of “See something, say something.”
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