With self-radicalized Muslim extremists going to the Middle East to fight for ISIS and others remaining behind to conduct mass casualty attacks on American soil, the Department of Justice has decided to study “far-right” groups and how they use social media to engage in “violent extremism”.
The Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) awarded Michigan State University $585,719 for the study that Eric Holder praised at the time the award was announced by the former attorney general earlier this year. According to the grant language:
“There is currently limited knowledge of the role of technology and computer mediated communications (CMCs), such as Facebook and Twitter, in the dissemination of messages that promote extremist agendas and radicalize individuals to violence…”
“The proposed study will address this gap through a series of qualitative and quantitative analyses of posts from various forms of CMC used by members of both the far-right and Islamic extremist movements.”
Despite the reference to “Islamic extremist movements”, the study will concentrate on “right-wing” forums rather than Islamist extremists. The grant language says:
“We will collect posts made in four active forums used by members of the far-right and three from the Islamic Extremist community, as well as posts made in Facebook, LiveJournal, Twitter, YouTube, and Pastebin accounts used by members of each movement…”
“The findings will be used to document both the prevalence and variation in the ideological content of posts from members of each movement…”
“In addition, we will assess the value of these messages in the social status of the individual posting the message and the function of radical messages in the larger on-line identity of participants in extremist communities generally.”
The project will go further than collecting posts and monitoring blogs. Academics will use the grant to identify the hidden networks of individuals who engage in extremist movements based on geographic location and ideological similarities” in effect creating a blacklist of individuals engaged in conservative and libertarian political activity.
Grant recipients will use the results to create a public webinar designed for use in presentations to counterterrorism experts in the United States.
At the time of the grant award, Holder highlighted the study in remarks at a February White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism saying the study was an example of the Justice Department’s new approach to combat terrorist threats.
While the grant does not name the “far-right” groups that would be examined, other federal agencies have devoted their energy to… the so-called “sovereign citizen” movement – people who support original intent Constitutional law… believe the Federal Government has and continues to exceed its Constitutional authority to govern the people… and that citizens are “sovereign” which is to say, in charge.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report on the movement that characterized its members as citizens who “believe that U.S. laws do not apply to them” just as the White House held its summit on violent extremism. To buttress the point, critics of the study said the administration did not use the phrase “Islamist extremism” in the announcement.
This isn’t the first time DHS took a position demonizing citizens who consider themselves strident patriots. In 2009, DHS issued a report on right-wing extremism, which included veterans returning from combat as a potential terrorist threat.