According to a new analysis, calls for violence against members of the January 6 committee are circulating on some of the same online platforms that helped fuel the lies that fueled the insurgency.
Users on these platforms are openly calling for the execution of committee members, with Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney appearing to be a specific target. Calls to hang former Vice President Mike Pence, which were heard throughout Washington, DC on January 6, are still being heard online.
Law enforcement faces a difficult task in determining what is merely rhetoric and what may be an active threat.
According to John Cohen, a former Department of Homeland Security Counterterrorism Coordinator who is now an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, authorities cannot dismiss worrying social media posts as mere hyperbole.
Cohen described social media monitoring as a “resource-intensive process that must involve federal, state, and local authorities working together, operating under strict protocols that ensure they are able to distinguish between constitutionally protected speech and threat-related activity.”
“We’re living in a highly volatile and complex threat environment,” he added.
The online threats continue as Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger revealed Sunday he received a letter in the mail that threatened to execute him, his wife, and their newborn.
The decision by Facebook and Twitter to remove then-President Donald Trump from their platforms following the insurgency was a boon to a growing cottage industry of alternative social media platforms.
Alternative sites, such as Trump’s Truth Social platform, which launched in February, position themselves as bastions of free speech, capitalizing on the perception among some Republicans that Silicon Valley has unfairly censored them.
According to its website, Truth Social “seeks to create a free-speech haven in the social media sphere and encourages your unrestricted free expression.” According to its terms of service, posts should not be “violent” or “harassing.”
An analysis by the group Advance Democracy, a not-for-profit that conducts public interest investigations, shared with CNN found posts on Truth Social calling for the execution of January 6 committee members and others. The researchers searched for specific terms on the platforms like “execute.”
One post on Truth Social includes a picture of a noose and reads, “The J6 committee is guilty of treason. Perpetuation of an insurrection hang them all.”
An analysis shared with CNN by the non-profit Advance Democracy, which conducts public interest investigations, discovered posts on Truth Social calling for the execution of January 6 committee members and others. The researchers used the platforms to search for specific terms such as “execute.”
One Truth Social post includes a picture of a noose and the caption, “The J6 committee has committed treason. The continuation of an insurgency hangs them all.”
Another user referencing Cheney posted a guillotine GIF with the message “#MGGA #MakeGuillotinesGreatAgain.”
On Tuesday, CNN inquired about several posts containing violent rhetoric, including one with a picture of a noose and a GIF of a guillotine. Truth Social did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment, but the posts appeared to have been removed by Wednesday.
In addition to Truth Social, Advance Democracy observed violent rhetoric related to the January 6 committee posted on other alternative social media platforms 4chan (which was used by the suspect in the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York), Gab, and another message board popular among some Trump supporters.
While many of the posts identified by Advance Democracy appeared to have little engagement, all of them are indicative of a trend of frequent invocation of violence in these online communities.
“IF we ever decide to storm the capital again, I promise we won’t make the mistake of being unarmed a second time,” a pro-Trump message board user said earlier this month.
The post has since been removed.
4Chan did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
Gab’s CEO, Andrew Torba, told CNN, “Gab allows all lawful political speech protected by the First Amendment, including speech about inherently political topics like the charge and punishment of treason in the US legal system. When a disagreement becomes a direct and imminent threat of violence, we will take action and collaborate with our law enforcement partners to mitigate any threats to the public.”
While many people who post on these sites will never commit violence, others will, as evidenced by the social media posts of some of those charged in the insurgency.
“Given the lack of content moderation on fringe platforms inhabited by far-right communities, the volume of threats is much higher than on mainstream platforms,” Ben Decker, the CEO of Memetica, a digital investigations company told CNN.
According to Decker, the most concerning aspect of some of these posts is that they appear to encourage “real-world violence [and] are not dissimilar to many of the threats that emerged in the weeks leading up to January 6.”
According to Daniel J. Jones, president of Advance Democracy, the online threats appear to be coming from people who believe the 2020 election was stolen. “It is clear that Trump’s lies and actions, as well as those of his supporters, continue to pose a serious threat to our democracy and the peaceful transition of power,” he said.
The United States Capitol Police had no comment. CNN has also reached out to the FBI, Pence’s office and Cheney’s office for comment.
SOURCE : CNN