Intelligence chiefs have warned that online extremist rhetoric is ‘very similar’ to that which was going on in the buildup to the January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol, with increasing calls for violence linked to conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election.
Homeland Security Intelligence chief John Cohen told CNN that there has been an increase in comments online such as ‘the system is broken,’ ‘take action into their own hands’ and ‘bring out the gallows.’
‘It’s very similar to the stuff we saw prior to January 6,’ Cohen said, with many calls for violence to rectify what conspiracy theorists claim was a rigged 2020 election.
Homeland Security Intelligence chief John Cohen warned that current online threats are reminiscent of the threats leading up to the January 6 insurrection
The Department of Homeland Security issued a new National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin warning the public about increasingly complex and volatile threats on August 13
‘It’s very similar to the stuff we saw prior to January 6,’ Cohen said, with many calls for violence to rectify what conspiracy theorists claim was election fraud
Paraphrasing threats, Cohen said that domestic threats call for violence claiming ‘the system is broken,’ ‘take action into their own hands’ and ‘bring out the gallow’
The date was also promoted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a pro-Trump businessman who has spread misinformation that the 2020 election was a fraud.
‘The morning of August 13 it’ll be the talk of the world,’ Lindell recently said on the conservative podcast WVW Broadcast Network.
QAnon supporters have previously claimed several other dates that Trump would be back in office, including Biden’s inauguration day on January 20, and March 4.
Cohen said that the calls for violence online did not revolve around a specific date.
‘Concern from a law enforcement perspective is at a certain point in time, all of the conspiracy theories that point to a change occurring through process are going to sort of wear out. And the question is going to be, are people going to try to resort to violence, in or in furtherance of, that false narrative?’ Cohen said.
Cohen’s comments came as the Department of Homeland Security issued a new National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin warning the public about increasingly complex and volatile threats.
A popular QAnon conspiracy theory claimed that Trump would be reinstated as president on Friday, August 13 furthering claims that the election was rigged
There is no constitutional process for reinstating former presidents to the executive branch. President Joe Biden remains in office after being inaugurated in January 2021
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also warned of the ‘expressions of violent extremism, born of false ideologies, false narratives, ideologies of hate’
DHS is looking ahead at the ‘current heightened threat’ as the country comes upon the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on America.
Leading up to the 20th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11, DHS is aware of threats ‘posed by domestic terrorists, individuals and groups engaged in grievance-based violence, and those inspired or motivated by foreign terrorists and other malign foreign influences.’
Online threats have also been ‘also exacerbated by impacts of the ongoing global pandemic,’ according to the DHS bulletin.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also spoke with CNN saying, ‘We are seeing expressions of violent extremism, born of false ideologies, false narratives, ideologies of hate. And we are seeing the potential connectivity to violence, which is where we step in,’ explaining that these threats led the department to renew the terrorism warning.
Friday’s warning issued an alert of the ‘heightened threat environment’ until November 20.
The NTAS bulletin comes ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the twin towers on September 11, 2021
Friday’s warning issued an alert of the ‘heightened threat environment’ until November 20
The NTAS bulletin warns foreign and domestic threats ‘continue to introduce, amplify, and disseminate 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 ideologically-opposed individuals.’
‘There are also continued, non-specific calls for violence on multiple online platforms associated with DVE ideologies or conspiracy theories on perceived election fraud and alleged reinstatement.’
Like the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, these threats are being circulated, amplified and tracked online.
The bulletin warns: ‘Ideologically motivated violent extremists fueled by personal grievances and extremist ideological beliefs continue to derive inspiration and obtain operational guidance through the consumption of information shared in certain online communities. This includes information regarding the use of improvised explosive devices and small arms.’
Following the attack on the US Capitol, many social media platforms announced crackdowns on the spread of baseless or false information, a decision sparked by the flood of false information regarding the election and the pandemic.
Trump himself has been personally banned from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitch.
Facebook and Instagram have joined other social media platforms in their crackdown on the spread of false information specifically surrounding the election and the pandemic
Amazon, Apple and Google removed Parler, the social media app described as ‘Twitter without rules.’
Discord, an instant messaging site, banned a server called TheDonald.win with a representative explaining, ‘While there is no evidence of the server being used to organize the Jan 6 riots, Discord decided to ban the entire server…due to its overt connection to an online forum used to incite violence and plan an armed insurrection in the United States.’
Other subgroups popped up in its place but Reddit banned the subreddit group r/DonaldTrump on January 8 stating that ‘Reddit’s sitewide policies prohibit content that promotes hate, or encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence against groups of people or individuals.’
But with the never-ending breadth of the internet, new social media sites continue to arrive and the NTAS bulletin warns that, ‘Violent extremists may use particular messaging platforms or techniques to obscure operational indicators that provide specific warning of a pending act of violence.’