By Joseph Chalfant
In the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol incident, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has contemplated hiring private firms to monitor and analyze social media platforms.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the companies would be tasked with monitoring extensive data to search for indications of extremist activity that may lead to threats at home and abroad.
The move has come under fire both in the DHS and White House and from outside advocacy groups. According to the Wall Street Journal, many are worried that expanded surveillance would be an unnecessary increase in government overreach threatening civil liberties.
“We do not support an expansion of social-media surveillance in the name of stopping the next attack on the Capitol,” said digital rights attorney Adam Schwartz of Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The news comes a week after DHS announced that chatter about political violence has been on the rise in recent months, according to NBC News.
“DHS has seen an increasing but modest level of individuals calling for violence in response to the unsubstantiated claims of fraud related to the 2020 election fraud and the alleged ‘reinstatement’ of former President Trump,” a department spokesman told the outlet.
While the spokesman did note the talks of violence were on the rise, they did offer reassurance by stating that the department was not aware of any credible threats at the time.
“Currently, DHS lacks specific or credible reporting indicating that violent extremists are planning to target specific events,” the spokesman said.
A statement released from DHS on Aug. 13 gives further credence to the likelihood that its social media proposal will be implemented. The department detailed several threats to the U.S., including threats of political violence and the key role social media has played in their amplification.
“[D]omestic violent extremists 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,” the statement said.
“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.”